Eric «Slim» Zahl & The South West Swingers have hosted New Year’s blues in Stavanger for over ten years, and the event attracts both local and visiting guests. More and more people seem to be entering the nice New Year’s blues as a fixed post in their “blues calendar”.
The start of a new year can be tough. Christmas is over, decorations and candles are cleared away, perhaps the wallet has been hard hit in Christmas shopping and the pants tighten a little uncomfortable after a month’s time with mulled wine, gingerbread and ribs. It’s dark and cold – and it’s easy to get the blues. Luckily, there is a cure, for what could be better than starting a new year of blue music in company with nice blues people in an old sea bay who still smells weak of woodwork?
The band does a good job as an organizer, everything goes well and is well prepared. It is probably something that it knows best where the shoe prints that has it on, and the artists know well how they want it when they are going to play.
Victoria Hotel is located right next to De Røde Sjøhus, where the concert is held on Saturday, and has this weekend status as a festival hotel. For those who came out of town, it’s nice to stroll around and look around the city.
Friday the party started with a concert with Low Down Ways in the small and intimate bar of the hotel. Saturday afternoon there was a small concert with Reidar Larsen and Joakim Tinderholt, as well as tasting of aquavit in the same bar.
Saturday night was the time to stroll over to the seahouses, the New Year’s concert was as usual held in De Røde Sjøhus, closest to the quayside in Stavanger. The doors opened at 8pm, and then people had already been in an ever longer queue for an hour. People will obviously want to grab a good table for the evening and get every note from the stage. There are many audiences among the audience, this has become a regular post on the program for many.
For the occasion, The South West Swingers was expanded with a very competent blowing series, consisting of Kåre Kolve on saxophone and Frank Brodahl on the trumpet, and that Christian Øvreaas was a substitute for Øystein “Boogieman” Undem on keys. Traditionally, the band had invited several guests to contribute to the musical. This year, Danish Mike Andersen, Joakim Tinderholt and Reidar Larsen had the job of spice up the concert with their musical contributions.
To warm the audience, the band Low Down Ways was hired in, the duo version of the popular band The Jelly Roll Men with Kent Erik Thorvaldsen on harmonica / vocals and Øyvind Stølefjell on guitar / piano. To add to the list for the evening, they made a bunch of tunes about horrible women, and all the sad things they bring with them all performed very silently and with a twinkle in the eye.
At 22 o’clock, it was time for tonight’s protagonists, Eric “Slim” Zahl and The South West Swingers consisting of Roald Brekke, Atle Helland Strøm and key cousin Christian Øvreaas, they entered the stage for the audience’s cheering reception. The band won the well-known European Blues Challenge in Italy in 2016, and has perfected their entertaining and swinging stage show through countless jobs both before and after the win. The band has built up a dedicated and faithful audience for many years, and many of these were gathered at Sjøhusene this evening.
After some initial songs from Eric & co, the first guest is welcomed on stage. Danish Mike Andersen is superpopular in Norway, and has visited many blues clubs and festivals. As Eric said: “Now everyone in the band is getting a little up in his back, for it is an honor for us to have Mike Andersen visit to play with us.
Mike has also played at Nyttårsbluesen earlier, and is one of the few artists who have received the honor of being a guest of honor twice. It was cramped in front of the stage, there were many who wanted a closer look at the skilled Dane. We got to hear several of the songs Mike usually does with his own band.
The band did a couple of songs on their own, funny I´m Busted, as well as the song City Boy by Keb ‘Mo’. Eric dedicated this lovely song to the band’s faithful audience, and the audience clearly showed that they appreciated that greeting.
Next guest out was Reidar Larsen. Reidar was here at home, and was very well received by the audience. Very obviously he took over the keys, and started it all with his song, Mr. Blues Is Coming to Town – in case anyone was in doubt. It was also re-listened to, among others, Robbery and Christina, overall a nice little hit parade from Larsen.
Evening hosts turned up the steam further, and now rocked well in front of the stage. Letting Long Legs Short Skirt speed up the dance foot to many.
As it approached midnight, the pepper began to get out of the audience, and then it was nice to get a visit from a younger gentleman who stroked energy and gambling, namely Joakim Tinderholt. Joakim has released two very good and critically acclaimed albums, You Gotta Do More in 2014 and Hold On in 2017, and both were also nominated for the Spellemann Prize. He has been signed on the German label Rhythm Bomb Records, and has played steadily on both Norwegian and foreign scenes. In 2018 he was also Norway’s representative in the European Blues Challenge.
Joakim seemed to be thriving with The South West Swingers, and with Eric and Joakim on their own guitar, this fluctuated tremendously. The last song in the set of Joakim was I Quit, which also ends on record Hold On.
After a few hours of good music and the mood at the top it approached the end. Half an hour after midnight, all evening artists took the stage at the same time, for a “grande finale”. And when the last tone of the dish in the room, both the band and the audience were so happy with the evening. Another New Year’s blouse has been completed, and both musicians and the audience have had fun.
By Nina Hanssen