A few weeks have passed since Paléo Festival 2023 ended and since then quite a few people who are yet to attend (bucket list for 2024) have asked me.. What’s it like? Is it for youngsters? What type of people go? I always reply – everyone! It got me thinking, the appeal of Paléo really is to everyone.
What I am interested in, is the special something that allows for festival-goers of all ages to party in the same space without treading or dancing on each other’s toes. This six-day music festival for 250,000 people running since the 70s, held in the small town of Nyon tucked between Geneva and Lausanne. I asked a few different people from all different backgrounds what they thought the appeal of Paléo was.
Picture this – parents grooving alongside their kids in the 70s and 80s and now those very kids are dancing with their own little ones on their shoulders. What’s the secret? As it goes, there isn’t one – just a simple formula that creates a harmonious space for all.
Fostering a Sense of Community and Family
It is a world where the cultural landscape is constantly changing and if you miss a beat, it is easy to get left behind. Beyond the music, there is a deep sense of community among attendees, the 5,000 volunteers and all the local organisations that make it happen each year.
It’s also not that unusual to find 3 generations within a family hanging out together all at the same time. The average age of a Paléo festival-goer hovers around 30 years old, which when you think music festival you immediately think of 20 somethings – not people in their 40s or 50s. The sense of togetherness, friends old and new and strong family connections make this environment. We’re all young at heart here.
I think for the community – they like to meet up, they like to stroll around. Even though there are 40,000 people you will always bump into somebody and just briefly say hello and it’s the conversations before and after. It’s really part of the community. The weeks before, the tickets, the experience sharing afterwards. I would say it’s a big part of our life here. – Marcello
I think it’s an incredible event on our doorstep. I bring my kids as well and there is so much for them at their age between 10 and 12. They can wander off and have their own Paléo experience. It’s safe and accessible for the kids to feel free. – Vish
Embracing Change while Respecting Tradition
As the world evolves, so has Paléo. By embracing change and keeping up with trends, the event remains fresh and relevant for younger as well as older attendees. It still keeps the traditions that have become synonymous with the festival experience and perhaps Switzerland as a country too. The fireworks display being one of them. Fast becoming a hot topic in relation to the environment but for now they stay until they find a cost-matching alternative.
The first time I came to Paléo I think I was 16 years old (nearly 25 years ago). It was great, really different. Not the same ambiance or atmosphere but still great. We discovered a lot of groups that I didn’t know, like Placebo on tonight. I came back this year for them. It’s fun for everybody for every age. Music style for everybody as well. That’s it! – one festival-goer
A Mix of Music and Memories Woven Together
The Paléo organisers’ ability to put together a diverse line-up of music that appeals to multiple generations really makes it work. What started off as a folk festival now has an immense Electronic Music Stage in the Belleville that has proven to be a huge success and addition. Artists brought in cover the nostalgic hits bringing familiarity and excitement for the baby boomers whilst also bringing in new and fresh energy and music for the younger generations. It means that each generation finds favourites whilst still discovering new sounds they probably would never have.
It’s just super awesome, the set up and this family atmosphere, you never see this kind of festival around Europe. I am here for the Queen Rosalia, of course, the Queen of Spain. I’m quite impressed about the restaurants and the food. You came for the music but it’s quite impressive – the variety of food – Alvarro travelled from Spain especially for the first time to be here.
The likes of Indochine or the Black Eyed Peas known from different eras. Same group but totally different audience. This blend of big names alongside lesser-known or upcoming artists ensures something for all musical tastes.
Robbie Williams (they said simultaneously). He was a big one. Sting was great as well last year but Robbie was amazing. We normally pick the night where there’s a band we know. It’s nice hearing some of the other bands and discovering new ones like tonight Frank Carter and the Rattle Snakes. They were really good. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to listen to them but you know maybe now I go and listen on Spotify – one Barry and Claudia’s favourite memories of Paléo.
Our first time here must have been 30 years ago, when we were students in Geneva. The first encounters were linked to a big name and it was also known as a big open air already. Now in recent years you also enjoy more than just the concert but everything around it. -Marcello
Creating Inclusive Spaces
Whether it was planned this way or not, the organiser’s must have realised the magic of a truly multi-generational event lies in creating inclusive spaces. From designated family areas with kid-friendly activities and performances to different zones – food, chilled, shopping. All tailored for festival-goers seeking different atmospheres.
I think because they really think about everybody’s needs. You have the La Ruche area and the crèche for babies up 8. It gives the parents a bit of a break and they can go off and have a few hours of freedom. So it’s cool. – Sarah
That is particularly true if you look at what day attracts who and what time they tend to arrive or leave. The 10:30pm train home on the weekend is full of the elder generation and families whilst the younger crowd are actually arriving at this time.
I think it’s the vibe and the music. If you look at the mix of people here, they don’t tend to be those who partition themselves. You got maybe the 70 year olds, they’re still feeling quite young. – Barry
I also think it is a unique event – it becomes very inclusive. I think that is the vibe that is so attractive. It’s a very inclusive environment – everybody is here and at the same time there is a certain element of anonymity as well. – Claudia
I still think there is a number of people who miss out on the biggest event of their home town. Often expats who go back to their home countries to visit friends and family or those who like to take an earlier summer holiday in July.
We’re never normally here in the summer as soon as school finishes we’re off for 6 weeks. A choice of visiting family or staying here and having fun….this year we are here and thought why not make the most of it. No regrets!
It’s relaxed, even though there’s a huge crowd, I still feel safe with the kids and it feels like a family event. I love all the kids, they’re having fun. They enjoyed the music. Honestly I kind of feel like it’s a miniature Switzerland and generally I feel safe in Switzerland, I feel like it’s an amazing place to raise your kids. – Veronika’s first Paléo.
Location is also a key factor – As Daniel Rossellat, President of Paléo pointed out that Geneva people don’t want to go to Lausanne and Lausanne people don’t want to go to Geneva. So Nyon is a happy medium.
Being pioneers in sustainability since 1999 has played a pivotal role in its ongoing success. Pledging to reduce emissions by 25% by the 50th edition is an initiative that aligns with the festival’s commitment to preserving our planet. Festival-goers are a lot more conscious of the environment and their role to play against climate change. Prioritising eco-friendly practices resonates with a growing audience who value responsible events.
I think it’s a good festival, I’m really excited being here. I like the atmosphere and the diversity – there are people 70 years old! I’ve seen young kids and I’ve seen 25 year old people like myself so I think this is awesome. I want to see the king of DJs today – Martin Garrix. I also want to mention the security. It feels like a super safe place – a family event, I know this is Swiss related. – Tino from Romania came to Switzerland to experience the festival.
Freedom and Expression
Regardless of age, attendees can express themselves freely through their fashion, art, and dance, creating a colourful mix – if you look around, every person is rocking their own style. This freedom creates an atmosphere of openness and respect. People are welcome to participate on their own budget. Yes, you have to buy a ticket but unlike most other festivals or events you can bring in your own food and drink – instead of only being able to purchase these on-site.
It does have a little something for the music lover, the different types of music genres. The food lover lots of different variety and diversity of food. The culture and arts lover. There’s a lots of different elements of culture, comedy, art, creativity. Or just come, chill and enjoy a drink and hang out with your buddies. It’s a great place to do it. – Vish
Generational gaps more often divide us and the unique appeal of Paléo lies in its ability to bridge these gaps and unite people of all ages through the power of music and shared experiences. Including the diverse range of music and dedicated searches for musical artists from across the globe – the Village du Monde has played host to Brazil, India, China, Western Africa, and South Africa in the past, with 2024 focused on the Balkans.
An adaptive approach to change, inclusive spaces, a sense of community, and an atmosphere of freedom – sharing the Swiss values of democracy and just letting people get on with it!
Read our article with Pierre-Alain Dupuis – one of the originators of Paléo.