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EUROPEAN BLUES CHALLENGE 2013

8th & 9th March 2013 – Le Bikini, Ramonville, Toulouse, France

photographs by courtesy of Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com 

 

Now the worrying thing is that a not inconsiderable number of you reading this will have no idea what the European Blues Challenge is and will probably not even be aware that the organising body, the European Blues Union, exists!

So, to set the scene, this was the third annual European Blues Challenge, this year organised by the European Blues Union in conjunction with France Blues and the Toulouse Blues Society. The Challenge drew entrants from 20 European countries, although only 19 managed to get to Toulouse as one could not raise the necessary to fund their trip!

The event was staged over two nights in a modern, top class venue a short taxi ride from Central Toulouse and was superbly managed with 9 acts on Friday and 10 on Saturday playing 20 minute sets and changeovers being achieved by an excellent stage crew in just 5 minutes. Congratulations must go to all involved, particularly all the crew from Le Bikini, the Toulouse Blues Society, France Blues and, of course, the EBU.

Openers on Friday were Latvia’s GZT – the Gints Zilinskis Trio – who, perhaps surprisingly, treated us to an all instrumental set featuring Gints with some fine boogie-woogie, ragtime and blues piano backed by stand-up bass and drums. The trio was very tight and very well rehearsed and so gave us a good opening set, certainly leaving me, and those I was with, wanting more.

Next it was the turn of Luxembourg’s Heavy Petrol & the Greyhounds, a five piece comprising vox, harmonica and air guitar, twin guitars (real ones!), bass and drums who gave us a very different and nicely varied selection much more in the blues-rock genre.

Austria’s Bluesmopolitans, a big seven piece outfit, took the stage and kicked off with a beautiful slow blues before breaking into something completely different for their second number, a song with a beat that was very nearly ska and most effective. The lead guitarist’s struggles with a defective guitar lead or some other technical stuff, detracted slightly from the band’s performance but generally they had a very ‘big’ sound and great rhythm.

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

There were several standout performances amongst a number of very good ones and one of the standouts was Soul Serenade, a acoustic trio from Romaniaand the youngest competitors in the Challenge. Performing seated with mandolin, guitar/harp and a lovely female vocalist whose sweet voice also had great power and depth. Their set included a number of covers, but they were such original versions that they almost made them their own. Great versions of ‘Walking Blues’ and a very different version of ‘Got My Mojo working’ were almost eclipsed by one of the highlights of the evening, a stunningly different take on ‘Smokestack Lightning’ which gave the old favourite a brand new lease of life.

 

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

Given the task of following an enthusiastically received Soul Serenade were the UK’s BabaJack who instantly grabbed the audience with ‘The Money’s All Gone’ closely followed by the title track of the forthcoming CD, ‘Running Man’. The audience were now hanging on Becky & Trev’s every word and when Becky introduced a work song, ‘Hammer & Tongs’ which saw Becky’s voice accompanied solely by Trev’s harmonica, the spell was complete! ‘Sunday Afternoon’ and ‘Skin & Bone’ rounded off their set and produced tumultuous applause from the now completely BabaJacked audience!

 

 

From Croatia came Sunnysiders, a 3 male, one female quartet all of whose members sang to great effect. A nicely varied set included ‘Bad bad Dance’ dedicated to the late Alvin Lee, the very amusing ‘I Got the Blues tonight’ and the interestingly titled ‘Superglue’. Apt for a very tight quartet who had great stage presence and made the most of their time on stage.

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

Variety was the key word and this was so ably and excellently demonstrated by the next band,Chino& the Big Bet from Spain. With a wonderfully varied and, at times, highly original blues and swing style, they opened with probably the fastest version of ‘Dust My Broom’ I have ever heard. Playing what looked to my untutored eyes to be electric resonator guitars,Chino, besuited and resplendent in his hat, led the trio which was completed by stand-up bass and drums, through a set that changed styles and rhythms and showed heavy Latin influences. The excellent ‘Hush (Pretty Baby)’ had one couple in the audience dancing a very sexy and accomplished tango!


Slovakia’s representatives were unique in several ways! Bonzo Radvanyi & Lubos Bena were not only the only contestants to feature a song in their native tongue, ‘Nemám hlad, nemám smäd“ (I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty)’, the title track of their most recent CD, but they were also the only duo that featured a guitarist (Lubos) sitting behind and playing the drum kit whilst playing guitar! The aforementioned song was dedicated to the memory of fellow Slovak, John Dopyera, inventor of the Dobro guitar. Their set included ‘River of Whisky’ and ‘Average Man Blues’ complete with the donning of an obligatory ‘bluesman’s’ hat!

After a short delay whilst the stage crew accommodated the band who were rounding off the first evening’s entertainment,Belgium’s Hideaway, a six piece who have been around since 1986 and were ready to party took the stage! With a line-up that included a great Hammond plus a super dirty sax, some great slide guitar and fine vocals, the guys went for it and really got the audience fired up with great sings such as a rock’n’roll take on ‘Hideaway’, a ditty about breaking up, ‘Members Only’ and ‘Mean Madame’. A great set which sent us very happily out into the balmy night air to find a taxi.

After a warm and busy Saturday which included the General Assembly of the European Blues Union in the morning and the excellent Blues Market in the afternoon, a gathering of more than 70 ‘exhibitors’ and many, many more musicians, promoters, media representatives and many others involved in some way in the blues, it was back to Le Bikini for part two!

Opening the evening were a band who, from listening to their music before going to Toulouse, were, I thought, going to be very interesting and they did not let me down! Honey B & T-Bones from Finland opened with a song that was preceded by what reminded me of Innuit throat singing and that was just for openers! At times reminiscent of Bjork, we had a song which opened with a cracking drum solo alongside a rip-roaring ‘Mojo Boogie’, the winner of the most bizarre song title award, ‘We had to postpone the Hunting Season’ and, as a finale, a total contrast, a haunting and goosebump inducing stripped down version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Walk the Line’ with Honey’s vocal transformed into a sweet soprano with added delay which produced an ethereal quality. Fabulous.

By total contrast, second on Saturday’s bill were France’s Shaggy Dogs (note: there is no ‘the’ in their name!). A band who proudly proclaim that there are ‘no more barriers between styles’ this four piece tore into their set with a power and energy which really fired up the audience. Opening their set with a drum solo whilst the other members took the stage amidst billowing smoke, they ripped into their opening number with wailing harp and glorious guitar. Shaggy Dogs have been compared to Dr Feelgood, and not without reason but watching singer Green Bullet and guitarist Jacker interacting on stage also reminded me of two venerable members of the Stones! Shaggy Dogs have a new CD being released in May and it is a scorcher!

Another contrast as Sugar Boy & the Sinners from the Netherlands took the stage. Very much representing the younger generation of blues bands from a country with a rich heritage of great bands, Sugar Boy & his cohorts sported heavily gelled quiffs and stand-up bass, almost more popular at the EBC than electric bass! The guys built upon the energy generated by their predecessors and they really got the audience moving with a set highlight being the rumba rhythms of ‘Baby You Are Out of Sight’ which produced an outbreak of dirty dancing. Great stuff!

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

A total contrast as Veronica Sbergia & Red Wine Serenaders from Italy took to the stage. Featuring Veronica on vocals, washboard, kazoo and ukelele, Alessandra Cecala on stand-up bass and Max De Bernardi on guitar and uke, Veronica promised us ‘a journey through early 20th century brothels’! And what an enjoyable trip it was! This was great entertainment and music that put a smile on your face. The audience flocked around the stage enthusiastically lapping up the ‘old style blues’ pouring from it. A Victoria Spivey song about dope was followed by the country style ‘Out on the Western Plains’, all superbly and entertainingly delivered.

 

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

 

From southern Europe, the next act took us north toNorwaywho were represented by Yngve & his Boogie Legs, five young men fromOslo, all aged just 22 and playing great rockabilly blues with a style and skill that belies their youth. Lead by the otherwise silent Yngve on stand-up bass, this young band’s set was comprised of totally original songs and finished with an absolute cracker which featured some wonderfully energetic bass playing. His excellent band complemented Yngve and they were enthusiastically received by the audience.

 

Also from Scandinavia were the next contestants, Chris Grey & the BlueSpand, for me, one of the less exciting acts! Sorry guys! They were purveyors of funky blues rock with a very ‘urban’ stage persona but, apart from a very enjoyable slow number which finished their set off, I did not feel that their material was particularly original and certainly their music did not move me!

Ever since reading about Poland’s representatives, Harpcore, I had been eagerly looking forward to their appearance. There are occasions when you will catch four top harmonica players on the same stage but it is normally more by chance than choice. However, Harpcore pulls together four of Poland’s best, adds two excellent guitarists and a drummer with the end result being something rather special. Harpcore’s set gave us twenty minutes of sheer heaven which saw the four harps playing in unison, playing like a brass section and then each taking turns to solo. One player even fed his harp through some sort of electronic wizardry to produce the sound of a Hammond organ, so much so that I, and others, kept looking on stage to see where the Hammond was hiding! Without a break, ‘Higher & Higher’ became an 11 minute marathon ‘Take Me to the River’. Magic stuff that ended all too soon. How I would love to see this band play a full set!

To Germany next with the Tommy Schneller Band, a great 7 piece outfit with a three piece brass section lead by Tommy on sax and vocals. The band opened with a gorgeous slow number, ‘Blues for the Lady’ which gave each instrumentalist an opportunity to shine and boy did they? The set continued and a lovely sense of mellifluousness washed over the auditorium as the band showed a tightness and togetherness which reflected their talent and experience. Another band that I would love to see play a full set.

And so to the final act of the Challenge, Matti Norlin & Badge, a trio of blues rockers who took no prisoners. Led by Matti playing a steel bodied resonator, a bit surprising given the music they were playing, the band’s ‘Calculated Mover’ was taken at 110 m.p.h. there was some fine bottleneck playing from Matti and this was definitely one for the headbangers. For your reviewer, it was the end of a long night and, if I am honest, not really for me but for many of the audience, it was their last chance to dance and dance they did!!

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com

 

A brief wait whilst the judges’ scores were totted up and then Thomas Ruf, President, and Jean Guillermo (vice-President) of the EBU took to the stage to announce the results. For the first time in EBC history, two acts tied for second place – the popular Chino& the Big Bet and crowd favourites Soul Serenade.

 

 

 

 

photo Monika Mansell – www.mansellphotos.com 

The announcement of the winners, Veronica Bergia & Red Wine Serenaders, was received with wild approval from the audience with  wild abandon by Veronica and her band mates, so much so that Veronica rushed across the stage and threw herself at Thomas! I think they may have to get married now!!

To close the night, we were treated to a jam which saw two stand-up basses on stage as the three ‘winners’ took to the stage for a wonderful, impromptu jam. A great finale to two excellent evenings of blues and beyond!!

Congratulations must go to everybody involved who worked so hard to make the EBC such an excellent two day feast of great blues from Europe. Next year it all takes place in Riga, Latvia so put the dates – April 11th & 12th – in your diary and make sure you book time off for 2014’s blues feast that is the EBC. And visit the EBU website – www.europeanbluesunion.com – to find out more about the Union and how you can support their efforts, and blues in the UK, by joining!

 

(Also published in Blues Matters! Issue 72 magazine – www.bluesmatters.com)

 

NEW BRUNSWICK BATTLE OF THE BLUES 2013 – FINAL

26th March 2013

Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, King´s Cross, London N1 9NL

 

A different venue this year for the 2013 final, a wonderful former cinema, minutes from Kings Cross and a building which evoked memories of childhood visits to cinemas when they had character!

Six very varied acts were competing to win a trip to play at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival inFredericton,New Brunswickin September, following in the footsteps of 24 Pesos (2011) and Groove-a-Matics (2012) and what an evening we had in store!

 

photo Andrew Walker

Opening the evening were the winners of the South-East heat at the New Crawdaddy Blues Club in Essex, the Dove & Boweevil Band. Hailing fromNorfolk, the band is based around the duo of talented vocalist Lauren Dove and the excellent guitar of Mark ‘Boweevil’ Hawes. Lauren wasted no time in whipping up the audience’s enthusiasm as the band filled their allotted 20 minutes with a great variety of material which showed their skill and talent. They just get better every time I see them!

 

 

photo New Brunswick Battle of the Bands

 

 

Next up were North-East heat winners, Street Corner Blues, a wonderful duo comprising guitarist/singer Chris James, appearing in his third NBBoB final, and glorious harmonica player Martin Fletcher. Their choice of material was excellent and the wonderfully full sound they produced filled the venue and hushed the audience. In particular, Martin’s harmonica appeared to produce a ‘surround sound’ experience. Sadly, all too soon their time was up!

 

 

 

photo New Brunswick Battle of the Blues

From Dundee came the Boston Tea Party, four 20/21 year olds who have been making quite a name for themselves over the last 18 months including supporting ‘rising star’ Jake Bugg. The guys certainly enjoyed themselves and will, no doubt, become a fine band. My feeling was that they sometimes lost their way and could, possibly, have done with a bit more rehearsal but, that said, they were enthusiastically received by the audience so what do I know?

 

 

 

photo Andrew Walker

The fourth finalist was also a contestant from the South East heat,Cambridgebased Ben Smith, the judges choice to fill the sixth slot in the final. Ben is not only an excellent guitarist but also a very strong singer blessed with a commanding voice. He sailed through a wonderfully varied set of originals including the excellent ‘Let’s Go To Bed for a Week’ and very quickly had the audience (well the vast majority of them) listening eagerly and in near silence! A very strong set indeed and Ben is another act that gets better every time I see him.

 

 

photo Andrew Walker

Two acts left and next up was the Laurence Jones Band, winners of theNorth Westheat in Newton Le Willows. 21 year old Laurence started playing classical guitar at 8 and went on to achieve grade 8 distinction on the instrument. It is, however, with an electric guitar that he is winning plaudits across the UK & Europe. His powerful guitar playing and rock solid rhythm section was very much appreciated by the audience and the end of his set was marked by prolonged applause, such that one wondered whether this might sway the judges.

 

 

There is an old adage about keeping the best till last and on this Tuesday evening, at least, it was true. Winners of the Southern heat at the aptly namedBrunswickinHove, David Migden & the Dirty Words electrified the audience from the opening drum beat and produced a set of such originality and diversity that it fair took your breath away! David has an amazing voice and his four band mates are such consummate musicians that there was very quickly a feeling that we were listening to and seeing the winners, a feeling I had voiced when I was a judge at the Hove heat. The applause at the end of their set left little doubt about who the audience felt were the winners.

And so it came to pass as David Seabrook, head judge and one of the principal lights at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival took the stage to announce the winners. He opened by saying ‘The standard of entries has been extremely high this year, as it was in the competition’s first two years. But David Migden & the Dirty Words had the edge and richly deserve the final prize!’

photo New Brunswick Battle of the Blues

A very excited David Migden & the Dirty Words returned to stage to be feted by an audience who, I hope, realised that they had seen some excellent acts but that they had also witnessed possibly one of the most original and exciting acts on the scene at the moment and one that will blow away the audiences at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival!

 

Congratulations go to all involved and thanks to Tourism New Brunswick for, once again, providing such a wonderful showcase of the unsigned and often almost unknown talent that there is on the UK blues scene. Thank goodness for the Canadians!

 

(Also published in Blues Matters! Issue 72 magazine – www.bluesmatters.com)

 

New Brunswick Battle of the Blues 2013 – Heats  

 

For the third year, Tourism New Brunswick have run what is probably the biggest and best showcase for unsigned UK blues acts with their New Brunswick Battle of the Blues, (well let’s face it, it is just about the only such showcase!)

 

In January and February there were five heats around England and Scotland at each of which six acts competed for a place in the final at the Scala Club in London in March. The winners of the Battle will be whisked off to Fredericton in New Brunswick,Canada, to play at the prestigious Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, one of Canada’s foremost festivals. I was lucky enough to attend the second and third heats which took place on consecutive nights in Essex andEast Sussex.

 

Thursday 24th January 2013 – The New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex – www.newcrawdaddyclub.com

This was the third time that the Crawdaddy had hosted a heat, the only venue in theUKso honoured! An, as ever, varied line-up fromLondon,East Angliaand the Wirral promised much and certainly delivered!

Someone always has to open and Sonic Blue fromLondondrew this slot. They quickly warmed the good sized audience up with a set of four songs that showed their combined years of experience and ranged from old school funky r’n’b to solid rock-blues. It would have been interesting to see them play later in the evening when the audience might have drawn more from them and they, the band, might have let go a little more.

A complete change as the next act, Ben Smith fromCambridge, took the stage. Ben is at home playing both acoustic and electric guitar, both solo and with his band. For tonight he played solo and treated us to five excellent songs, mostly originals which were clearly drawn from life. Combining beautiful guitar playing with great sounding vocals and thoughtful lyrics. A new name to me but certainly one I hope to hear more.

The third act of the night hailed fromNorfolk. As a duo, Lauren Dove and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes, were contestants in the same heat in 2012 but this year they were back as the Dove & Boweevil Band with the addition of keyboards, bass and drums and very tasty it was too! The additional instruments seemed to push Lauren up a gear and her performance, both vocally and physically, led one audience member to liken her to a young Elkie Brooks. Mark was also empowered and showed off his excellent guitar skills much to the audience’s delight.

Next up was the Paul Garner Band, aLondonbased 3 piece fronted by much in demand Kiwi now resident inLondon, Paul. WithHammondand drums making up the trio, we were treated to a couple of original songs as well as a very different version of ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’. Paul is a master guitar player, which explains why he is in such demand on the scene, and truly makes his instrument sing. With their brief set, the trio took us very much into that land where jazz and blues crossover, demonstrating not only their tightness as a unit but also their skill.

The penultimate act had travelled through very bad weather fromBirkenheadand, boy, was the trip worthwhile? The Joe Topping Trio is another name new to me and I would love to see a full length set from them. Joe is a great storyteller, both in his songs and in his introductions, so much so that he overran his allotted time! With four fine originals, Joe covered unusual topics such as Burke and Hare and a bungled bank job! Edgy lyrics were underpinned by some fine guitar from Joe plus Hammond and drums from his cohorts, all played with measured reserve that simply made the whole thing more powerful. For me one of the evening’s highlights!

Closing the evening were the onlyEssexbased band in the heat, the Mighty Bosscats, who were well known to Club regulars. Fronted by prolific songwriter, singer and guitarist Richard Townend, their four song set offered great variety, including some very fine harmonica playing, backed up by great passion and emotion. Richard’s voice has a husky tone that commands attention and his band complemented him superbly bringing to a close an excellent evening.

There followed the difficult bit, choosing a winner, a job I was very glad I did not have! And it was close with just one point between the first two acts! Ultimately, the judges’ choice was the Dove & Boweevil Band, many of whom had already set off on a difficult journey through snow and ice back toNorfolkas the evening’s winners and they go forward to the final.

 

Move forward 20 hours and despite the threat of dire weather conditions we were in Brighton (Hove actually!)

 

Friday 25th January 2013 – The Brunswick, Hove, East Sussex

What a difference a day makes. From the all seated, carpeted New Crawdaddy to a music room attached to a pub with very few seats, a stage so small that most drummers had to sit off at one side and, as a judge, sat at the back, it was difficult to even see the bands! There was, however, a conveniently placed large mirror that was of some assistance!

First to take the stage were the Brighton based octet, The Blues Corporation, who featured a line-up that included a three piece brass section and a Hammond organ! They certainly created a wonderfully big sound and the solos by the various instrumentalists and I can imagine that they would be a great band to party with. With the majority of the instrumentalists having a solo opportunity, they demonstrated a great breadth of skill and gave a very polished performance that went down very well with the swelling audience.

From just along the coast,Worthing, cane Blues Issue, a 4 piece which included one of those weird looking electric upright basses. Nice interplay between guitar and harmonica, good vocals and some fine original songs made for an enjoyable set. Their forthcoming CD will certainly be one that I shall try to get hold of.

The third act to grace the stage was a trio from Street inSomerset, Crows Parliament. With a new female vocalist who had recently replaced the trio’s original, Canadian, lady singer, their set contained all original material and I have to say was not at all my cup of tea,! Their Reverbnation page describes them as sounding like ‘Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors’ – Sorry but I could not see the likeness at all. What they did do was demonstrate that the NBBOB heats draw together an amazing variety and cross section of purveyors of the genre and congratulations should go to the organisers for creating such diverse heats.

What can I say about David Migden and the Dirty Words, later to be crowned as the winners of this heat, an accolade so richly deserved? One of a number of acts showing thatKentis a hotbed of talent at present, David was originally a French horn player and has had what can only be described as an interesting career so far. For me, his set was the standout of the night and David’s charisma and easy stage persona very quickly had the audiences’ attention, no mean feat when they had not stopped talking for any of the previous acts. Such was David’s power that as he brought the music down to sotto voce so a hush fell over the audience as if the music had struck them dumb! With a voice that, at times, is reminiscent of Tony Joe White and original material that can certainly be said to push the blues envelope, David and his extremely talented band made the long drive fromEssexmore than worthwhile. I have been so enjoying his CD, ‘Killing It’, and to catch him live was a real bonus.

The next act had had a fair trek to be at the heat too. Wooden Horse, a duo who are garnering a great deal of praise currently, hail fromWorcester. Theirs was a very hard task, an acoustic duo having to follow a large band that had blown the audiences’ socks off. We were treated to some glorious lap steel, Hawaiian style guitar and some great harmonies plus some first class harmonica playing. On another night, perhaps at another heat, Wooden Horse could well have been the winners. Sadly, the audience was back at full volume and it was, at times, hard to enjoy the subtlety and finesse of Jaime and Ben through a cacophony of chatter! Why do people go to music gigs only to ignore the music, spoiling it for those who want to listen? (Don’t get me started!)

Rounding off the evening wasLondonbased 3am, a band who have been around for a while and who I had seen a number of times. However, this was my first opportunity to catch them with new singer Laura Long, an experience I very much enjoyed. There had been some debate in the social media about whether the band should include ‘Insatiable’ in their set (my pick as one of the raunchiest songs of 2012). They did and it went down well. As did the whole of the band’s set, proving to be a very fine way of finishing off what had been an excellent evening which served, once again, to demonstrate the wealth and variety of talent there is out there.

Thanks go to Lee George whose hard work, with his team, makes this event happen and to my fellow judge, Lisa Gagnon-Norris from Tourism NewBrunswick. Roll on the final and roll on next year!

 

Le Buis Blues Festival – 19th/20th August 2011 – Le Buis, Haute-Vienne, France

 

In some of the hottest weather of the year, I attended the 6th Le Buis Blues Festival, a free, two day event in the  heart of the Haute-Vienne in the Limousin region of France.

Friday, the first night, an outdoor stage was set up beside a lake in the grounds of a beautiful chateau in Nieul, a town of more than 1500 residents some miles from Le Buis and two excellent acoustic(ish) acts entertained in the most idyllic and unexpected surroundings.

Guitarist and singer, Mathieu Pesque headlined accompanied by Roll Pignon (harmonica and vocals), a man whose facial expressions, sometimes wailing harp and Cockeresque vocals were a complete contrast to Mathieu’s calm and chilled stage persona.  Their fine set of highly varied material was very well received by the sizeable audience luxuriating in the
warmth of a summer’s evening as the sun set in an ambience that was unique.

For me the highlight of the evening was the opener, a young lap steel player, Olivier Gotti, from Aix-en-Provence who had been called in at two days notice after the originally booked act cried off. And what a substitute he proved to be!!

Playing a great mix of his own material, traditional numbers from the likes of Robert Johnson and Blind Willie Johnson and interspersing surprises like Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ (most effective), the combination of his thoughtful and haunting lap steel playing, his
fine voice, the material and the general surroundings was quite magical.

Saturday, in Le Buis itself, a commune with less than 200 residents, saw a much bigger event where the centre of the village had been closed off, a large stage erected in the road outside the church which itself was encircled by the bar and the food counter where barbeques and griddles served up great, well priced food and very popular ice cream!

Four acts were scheduled, the first, David Lipari, was another replacement as Hokie Joint were originally booked to play but had to cancel. David was Italy’s representative in the first European Blues Challenge in Berlin earlier this year and he produced a growlingly dark and menacing performance which I have to confess did not entirely do it for me! However, he was enthusiastically received by the ever growing audience.

Next up were a band called Cotton Belly’s (that damned misused apostrophe again!), for me, the highlight of Festival. Their excellent set included a wide range of material ranging from originals to very fine and individual covers of the likes of ‘St James Infirmary Blues’, and they very quickly fired up the crowd and soon had everyone clapping and singing
along. No mean feat in the heat!

They were followed by 2011 IBC semi-finalists and France’s entrants in the inaugural European Blues Challenge, Awek from Toulouse who, as darkness fell, delivered an excellent and polished up tempo set which again had the crowd, which by now had grown to several thousand, dancing with great enthusiasm and abandon. Awek are a
very polished and tight band whose performances, whenever I have seen them,
always offer maximum music with very little chat between songs. Definitely a
‘more music’ band and one to catch if you get the opportunity.

Closing the evening were the Buttshakers whose female singer set the scene by declaring (in French) ‘we ain’t blues but we got rhythm and if you don’t want to dance then its time to go home!’ Perhaps not a very wise suggestion as within the first couple of numbers, the crowd did seem to have thinned somewhat! But this certainly spurred on the younger element of the audience which, by now, was considerable.

For those who wanted to sweat even more pounds off dancing to very well delivered and excellently arranged, supercharged, up tempo soul, this band was great with huge energy and drive and a fine line up that included a small brass section and a great female vocalist. But for me, weary and drained after nearly five hours standing in the very high temperatures and humidity, I beat a retreat. It’s me age dear! At midnight the car thermometer was showing the temperature as 27.7C!!!

There seems to be an entirely different approach to these things here in France.
The festival is THE event of the year for the villagers, many of whom could be
seen behind the bar serving, helping sell and cook the food etc. Laurent, the
organiser, – the Boss as his pass said! – told me that he has a EUR25,000
budget of which more than half comes from sponsorship – ( a bank, a power
supplier, a music shop, a radio station, a transport company, the regional
council!!). The rest is sourced from the sale of food & drink on site and a
raffle.

It really is hard to imagine such an event happening in similar circumstances with similar support in theUK!

Roll on next year when I am told Hokie Joint will be playing alongside some great acts from the US as well as some top French acts!! Can’t wait!

 

October 2011

1 Comment
  1. Vinny Serino says:

    Just thought I say hello – and let you know we are preparing to release a CD in the next 4-5 months that is supposed to be released in UK…stay in touch if you like..

  1. […] Vous pourrez également lire l’article consacré au festival 2011 qu’il a mis en ligne : Digitalblues.co.uk/?page_id=7 […]

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