A Pony At The Dining Table

This appeared on WOZ DIEWOCHENZEITUNG - February 5, 2009

On the 25th anniversary of the Country Festival Zurich to American Folk Music, Spare ribs, baked potatoes and Swiss fans celebrate the seven weeks of coziness external wanderlust.

The country's longest festival in the world does not take place at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nashville, Tennessee but in Switzerland, at the foot of the Zurich Uetiberg hill walking. For 25 years it has been the home to Schutzenhaus Albisguitti, the western colossal spectacle. Seven weeks, from January 30 to March 22, more than 50 bands and 18,000 tickets have been reserved in advance. A feast of superlatives and the brilliant opening night will be an "icon of country music" Marty Stuart.

Marty once played in Johnny Cash's band, married his daughter Cindy and won a Grammy and an award from the Country Music Association. He performs with Connie Smith on his second wife, who has two awards and also the end of the sixties and early seventies won four Grammies. The two superstars have the budget of the Zurich Country Festival this year quite a challenge. "My agent told me that the couple never performs together," says Albi Matter, program manager of the festival. Finally, it is an anniversary to celebrate.

"Somebody say howdy!"

The U.S. and Canadian country bands were both "impressive" when they enter the Albisguitti. So do not expect anything. "Matter is information in short words, always looking back on his cell phone, picks up the cigar. "Even 9:05. Where are they?" The stars of the evening have come. The audience is the dessert. Shortly after nine, the band enters the stage. Some 50 supporters have gathered before Marty Stuart and Connie Smith to see them up close. The camera phones are in the air fast. "Somebody say howdy!" calls Marty. Slow responses from the audience. The musicians wear turquoise suits turquoise glittering with sparkling strass beads, black shirts and serious faces. Marty Stuart, all in black, daring the next attempt. "Do we have any Hillbilly music fans tonight?" Affirmative hoot. The crowd is slowly moving to the photographer around forming the first line dancers to dance.

By Alice Kohli

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