Live review: Notodden Blues Festival 2019 has found the winning recipe: Photo album, Video

- in BLUES, CONCERTS, FESTIVALS, VIDEOS

Just when the Notodden Blues Festival needed it most, they knocked on all the gloomy predictions about their further existence. This year’s festival is not the one that got Charlie Baty and Rick Estrin of Little Charlie & The Nightcats to claim that this is the best blues festival in Europe more than 10 years ago, but it was a festival crowd fully embraced.

Maybe not the best when it comes to blues highlights, but the entertainment value was occasionally formidable. And it’s never been wrong for a blues to know on rock or americana twang!

You could feel the feeling that this would be a good place to be already on Thursday, as we attend one of the better festival openings we’ve seen when Minister of Commerce Torbjørn Røe Isaksen declared the festival open midway through the show. We have heard a lot of embarrassment from top politicians in such contexts, but this held water and certainly saw it. Bluespower and talk about worker music from a right-wing politician. Should be heard!

And if Torbjørn hit with the words, which he has both the education and the position to be able to do, then you had to hide something wet in the corner when the youngsters from Little Stevens Blues School and then the Bosnia blues band MoRS Blues Band took the stage. With all its faults, with all its naivety, its gameplay, unfinishedness and burning heart to spread music that would touch. They did, and fortunately Notodden has an audience that doesn’t let things go unnoticed. The fact that NRK’s ​​program director Leo Ajkic was moving when he introduced his countrymen from a war-ravaged Bosnia only confirms that the blues can still change people’s lives in a good way. Or as the Notodden Blues Festival had a slogan a few years ago: “The best of people & blues”. And let it be said once and for all: There are only good people at Notodden! When Tove Bøygard talks to the audience as “my goingane”, warm feelings are behind it. Everyone feels at home up here, as it has done for the undersigned for 25 consecutive years!

A rain shower of the good old kind we had to endure from the left on Saturday. Otherwise, it became just as sweaty, fierce and hot as when Kim Wilson with an explosive Fabulous Thunderbirds, with a newly-cut Kid Ramos in the Sliper Hall in 1995, stated: “Man – this is just like being back home in Louisiana”. As the sweat ran in the stream. Sweat and blues belong together, but to be honest we probably got most of the first. That Dr Bekken received the blues award, I think probably pleased everyone who participated in the blues festival in its original form before the turn of the millennium. That’s blues it! And when all the forces had left the undersigned after floating up and down the main street on Notodden between Bok & Blueshuset and Hovig’s Hangar in search of concert experiences and interview objects on a busy Saturday, it was so inescapable to land on the festival’s smallest stage with an equally tired Dr Bekken who took you on his journey with solo piano and a voice reminiscent of a Randy Newman with a hangover. The Bluesum Bar with chairs for about 20 audience members and a tapping tower released from cashless hell was an experience for kings. But if I was turned on “knight” for a moment, I woke up by the Doctor asking us all to peel us “to hell out of here”, though with a not so small dose of smile on our mouths, so we just reached the last mass -suggestion at Hovig’s Hangar where rock band Rival Sons delivered their oozing Led Zeppelin-inspired American rock as the beer brews floated and the crowd sang. For many, this was a fantastic weekend at Notodden. No teeth in the gutter, only smiles, good mood and warm hugs to see and feel.

Notodden Blues Festival har funnet vinneroppskriften

The headliners all met as one. Bigbang took you to the mountains with their classic singer / songwriter rock ‘n roll as they thundered in “To the mountain”. One can say with certainty that both Bigbang and Rival Sons, both with classic rock genes, have performed with greater energy on Notodden before. But preserves what a true rock concert can do with traditionally bluesy bones and stuffing. And when we talk about energy: What on earth was Prepple in his jug this time? We have absorbed countless Dumdum Boys concerts through a long life, where many of those who paid tribute to the lyrics in front of me were not even thinking when “Splitter pine” took the Iggy Pop foot all the way out in Norway in 1989, and this concert at Notodden The blues festival must be one of their best for ever. Full guy in the tent, and rock classics on rock classics sung with such powerful singing within the “walls” of Hovig’s Hangar that has ever been measured. That Prepple pulls off his upper body belongs to the tradition, but that he threatens to pull his pants off also belongs more to the rarities. Threatened with pure joy, he threw himself into the audience’s arms, called “stage diving”, apparently, and let himself be lifted to what is usually a paved parking lot on Notodden. Occasionally you can see that a rock band has it almost more fun than the audience, and this was one of those evenings. It is wonderful that you can love your job so fiercely after almost 35 years in the industry!

And why is it that we will never get the Allman Brothers Band to Notodden, for now natural reasons, and probably never any Neil Young either, when it grows like it does in the US with ladies like Larkin Poe? Forget terms like “girl power”. These girls appeared as “heavy” and grumpy as any of the guys you’ve seen accelerate Southern State vibes somewhere between Southern State rock, roots rock, blues rock and singer / songwriter rock. It is never a very grateful job to be the first artist out on a big stage like Hovig’s Hangar when everyone is out in the sun drinking. Maybe that’s why the weather gods sent a solid shower of mixed water down our heads perfectly timed with their entrance, so many found themselves the best place to be during this festival: In front of the stage, under the roof, with young energy, sheer power, and a promise not to Take some prisoners from the first song. We have had some people on Notodden over the years. I really hope Larkin Poe becomes one of them. They are rock, but also hellish a lot of blues, like when they played a Robert Johnson song with the devil in the heels. And neither the devil nor Robert Johnson had heard their version before!

A prop young energy, being a woman with powers like a bear (ie man), and being so much blues that rock passes any blues censorship. We just have to give a lot of affection to the sweet brother for sending us the Lisa Lystam Family Band for this year’s festival. Not much paint still hangs on the walls inside Teledølen’s outdoor scene, and the last remnant took Lisa Lystam and her band and peeled away with a hefty intensity during her only show at Notodden on Saturday night. This was the concert you almost had to have a heat suit on you to resist. We saw that the firefighters had to take down the large painting sail at the entrance to Hovig’s Hangar when Larkin Poe stepped on, probably as a result of the wind that followed the rainstorm, but where were they when the Lisa Lystam Family Band played? Potentially, this lady can burn down bigger venues than Teledølen, and as with Larkin Poe: We hope Notodden Blues Festival has already sent a return ticket for next year!

That young artists make us “old people”, who have been treading more or less unclean up here since the 80s / 90s, feel that Notodden Blues Festival has partially regained its position as the place to discover new favorites, is like a dream. With the Lisa Lystam Family Band, but also the daughter of Victor Brox (singer of Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation in the late 60’s / early 70’s) who with his Kyla Brox Band did a nice and uplifting blues concert with a driven arch British blues band in the back. And with nice phrases against jazz that broke with everything else you heard up here. Not to mention our new upcoming blues guitar star from Trøndelag in Tora, who was given the tough challenge of following up the Lisa Lystam Family Band. Something she did with brilliance, though she probably felt the pressure backstage when she heard how Lisa “tore” the scene apart. And this is just the beginning for the artists we are talking about here. Some have been away for a while, others just jumped on the train, but all represent the future of blues festivals like this. They will remember the Notodden Blues Festival as a place where it mattered. Where music is important.

Monster Mike Welch can no longer be described as a newcomer, having returned with wonderful concerts at Notodden with Mike Ledbetter the previous two years! But after the tragic and most unexpected departure of Mike Ledbetter in January, Monster Mike has been left to himself again. A role he did excellently when he as a teenager idol (on the same train as Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi and Kenny Wayne Shepherd in the 90s) first came to Notodden in 1997. Can love, like Jostein Forsberg and the entire crew behind Notodden Blues Festival showed by inviting Monster Mike to Notodden this year, after the tragic message of Mike Ledbetter, make any difference? Yes I believe. Monster Mike is now on the offensive and will be one of the most important “voices” on blues guitar for a long time. One of the most important artists who can carry the real blues forward, so BB King, Albert King and Buddy Guy and others have prepared the ground. Whoever heard his empathy for the Otis Rush classic “At the right place, at the wrong time” down at the Book & Blues House Friday and Saturday, the first song he and Mike Ledbetter played together when they met, knows how a dedicated blues man Really can deliver pain and emotion right to the heart with a guitar. It’s a bit of a struggle with emotions. You can feel the cry inside you as you smile outward when the blues guitar comes with feelings you have hardly heard since BB King’s passing. I would love to see Mike deliver a set of such “serious” songs in front of a sitting audience all evening. However, on these playing jobs at the Book & Blues House on Notodden with his friends in the Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars, with forgotten vocal star Michelle Willson and one of the most legendary bassists in Michael “Mudcat” Ward, the focus was musical party. Knowing the little toe goes completely different paths than the big toe. That a wealth of R&B, blues and rock genes play together in a variety that gave an irresistible smile on their mouths, and was simply entertained by musicians we have no habit of greeting in Norway. Alongside Monster Mike, guitarist Troy Gonyea once stood close with Kim Wilson in his legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds, and toured with the no less legendary Booker T around the world. I don’t think I’m going to say it was down by the water, the two shows with Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars, which became Notodden’s greatest blues experience this year.

Some of the finest moments we’ve had with Texas blues over the years have come with Kim Wilson and his timeless The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The blues alibi on the big stage of Hovig’s Hangar on Saturday paid off for old fans, with guitarist Johnny Moeller now the longest in the band alongside father himself, Kim Wilson. They played many of the audience favorites from the early years, as well as a selection from Wilson’s solo albums. Songs like “Tuff Enuff,” “She’s Tuff,” and Johnny Guitar Watson’s “She Moves Me” and “Don’t Touch Me,” from Wilson’s brilliant 1993 solo release, Tiger Man. Kim Wilson is still one of the best blues singers around, and he still delivers his harmonica show as he always has: Send the band off stage and keep it going full energy alone for 15 minutes showing his brilliant technique including play two independent characters at the same time on the harmonica. Those who have seen Kim and the Thunderbirds many times have seen most of it before, but if The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 2019 are not talk-of-the-town like they were in 1995, then it is good to have the continuity and quality they always come to Notodden. That the blues as tradition is kept alive!

Supersonic Blues Machine also has to be fulfilled, where a well-stocked Hovig’s hangar was ripped off with guitarists Joe Louis Walker, Eric Gales and especially ZZ Top legend Billy Gibbons letting the blues-rocking Las Vegas show blast their way through old ear wax and earplugs that on a train it was impossible to just think of stopping. Because of its guests, this is a very entertaining band, now with the British blues rock phenomenon Kris Barras in front of the song / guitar, but it is hard, heavy and programmed in a way that only a no-brainer of a concert can. Many blues critics are skeptical of the Supersonic Blues Machine, in a way they are right too, but the primal show no one can deny is very proft and “full of balls”. So they did their job, the audience stretched out their arms and sang along. Yes, one hand – the other held around the pint. Don’t think that during any concerts, more pints were drunk than under the Supersonic Blues Machine. The music somehow invites you to it! And how angry it could be was demonstrated when the band was refused to do their closing number where all the guitarists would come in and chant solos on a long line to “Got my mojo working”. The band’s Italian-born bassist could have killed those who decided their time was out, but then they might have ditched the somewhat bland “Running Whiskey” on the upside, even though it’s a song they got from Billy Gibbons for their latest studio album.

Ulf Lundell was also in great shape at Notodden. Many talk about “this may have been his last chance to see him live in Norway”, but even though he passes 70 in a few months there is a lot of gunpowder left in the Bruce Bruce Springsteen in the north, as he has often been called. So some last time this probably wasn’t. “I don’t often play at blues festivals, so now I think we can play some blues,” Ulf said from the stage, releasing his hard-hitting band in full, including “Omaha” from 11 years ago. And what song did he end with? Well, just like Jonas Fjeld always ends with “Angels in the Snow” and Bjørn Eidsvåg with “Eg Se”, there is only one song that is relevant at an Ulf Lundell concert in Norway. Of course “Open Landscape”. Of course there’s blues in it!

The only reflection Notodden Blues Festival should make after this year’s festival is to give up the classic rock segment. Only exception may be if they get Deep Purple up in the mountain world maybe, because Come Taste The Band was the only time I thought this didn’t work. Not because I don’t like the genre, I grew up with it, but because the audience they draw today doesn’t get over Meheia. And long-retired Joe Lynn Turner, known from Deep Purple and Rainbow, just doesn’t hold decent goals anymore. With or without oxygen tent. Then the vocalist Doogie White, also known from Rainbow, was much better, but the only time a classic rock act has worked like this at Notodden was when Paul Rodgers (Free / Bad Company) visited the jetty. Unfortunately, you have to say, because you almost felt sorry for Come Taste The Band, which after all played and performed very well.

Notodden Blues Festival has found the recipe for how to operate successfully. Now it’s all about making sure that the most interesting artists in blues, soul and R&B still come to what has been considered by many to be Europe’s best blues festival. So that the core and the foundation of the festival is not more hollowed than it is now. The undersigned got an interview with Monster Mike Welch at Notodden, and got to know band leader Anthony Geraci who often had Pinetop Perkins living at his home and played some amazing blues records with Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Duke Robillard & The Pleasure Kings and Sugar Ray & The Bluetones back in the 80’s. And not least we got an interview with the charming Michelle Willson who disappeared from our radar after her visit to the Notodden Blues Festival in 1999. At that time she was alone one of my main reasons for going to Notodden, and I think the blues world has missed a Ruth Brown size for far too many years, since she has been off the face of the earth for us Norwegians for almost 20 years. Why she disappeared, and what Dr Bekken thinks about getting the blues award just before he heads the Norwegian blues train which will take on Royal Albert Hall this fall, you can look forward to read more in the upcoming print edition of Bluesnews. As well as a warm meeting with Tove Bøygard as more than any other artist on Notodden, he linked americana and blues with a personality and a message that held us, even though we knew that Ulf Lundell had gone on stage a block ago 100 yards away. At Notodden it’s not about how great you are, but how good you are. And Tove Bøygard and her eminent band with Eivind Kløverød on drums, Jørun Bøgeberg on six-string Fender bass and a Freddy Holm who can conjure up everything with strings was an experience of the rare. Again!

Notodden has its slogan “The best of people & blues” retained, and I think not only the festival management and business stand at Notodden draw a sigh of relief that this year’s festival became such a success both musically and with 21,000 tickets sold, where break even lay Norway, and the blues community far beyond our borders need the locomotive Notodden Blues Festival has been since 1988. And we need the generosity the people up here in the mountains say welcome year after year. There is no better festival, so we just have to accept that it is not only the blues that fill the program, like Molde fills up with much more than jazz. But it is important that the most exciting artists, such as when they picked up JJ Gray & Mofro in 2015 and the solo edition of Warren Haynes in 2011, come to the festival we love. So that we will continue to come, even after we get a walking chair that runs on battery.

Well met in 2020!

Steinar Albrigtsen og venner leverte en flott avslutningskonsert søndag.

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