June 22, 2024


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GB Blues Express nr. 2 in the European Blues Challenge: Photos, Video

Once again, a Norwegian band has made its mark in the European Blues Challenge. In the ninth edition held in the Azores 5th-6th. In April, Northern Norwegian Geir Bertheussen Blues Express conquered a strong and well-deserved second place. The victory this year went to English Kyla Brox Quartet. Dutch The Dynamite Blues Band came in third.

With GB Blues Express’s second place, Norwegian bands have been top 3 five out of nine times. Two Norwegian bands have previously won, Rita Engedalen & Backbone in 2012 and Eric “Slim” Zahl & The South West Swingers in 2016.


GB Blues Express nr. 2 i European Blues Challenge

In addition, Pristine took second place in 2014 and JT Lauritsen & The Buckshot Hunters a third place in 2015.

Ponta Delgada

This year, Portugal hosted the European blues collection, and the event was added to the scenic Azores in the Altlanteren. The island group is two hours’ flight west of the mainland, and it was the town of Ponta Delgada that was the site of the band competition, the blues market and the EBU General Assembly, which is always included in this annual event for actors in the European blues environment.

Although the Azores were not the most easily accessible destination, a large number of visitors from around twenty different countries had found their way. Many had chosen to spend a few more days on the islands, while others added some holiday days with visits to Lisbon or Porto. That was also the case for many of the 50-60 from Norway who had found their way. With especially the Oslo Bluesklubb well represented, the Norwegian audience marked themselves with flags and cheers when the Norwegian musicians delivered their contribution from the stage.

Opening Night

The event started already on Thursday evening when the host country invited to a concert where three leading Portuguese blues bands were presented. We heard the bands Messias & The Hot Tones, Vitor Bacalhau and Budda Power Blues. They have all been participants in the EBC.

Blues Challenge

The band competition was held in the wonderfully beautiful room Coliseo Micaelense, an old venerable theater that seats a few thousand people. Here you could either sit on the floor in front of the stage, or find a lodge or balcony in one of them
eight floors in the room. The competition contained 22 bands that were distributed over two evenings. The program was not set up for A-people, but according to the local organizers, they are used to these islands, to stay on until the morning. The band competition lasted from 9 pm to 2:30 pm, both days followed by jam sessions that lasted until 8 pm. 5 am in the morning.

The first band released on Friday was the Hungarian band György Ferenczi and The Rackajam. When the host country’s participants, Delta Blues Riders, were well underway as other bands released, it began to fill up in the room. The bands had all 20 minutes at their disposal, and 10 minutes were added to the stage shift. Here, the organizer’s two program managers tried to fill the time with relevant information about the bands and the EBU’s work.

The bands we especially noticed this first evening were the representatives from Belgium, Black Cat Biscuit, Romania’s band, The Smoothie Gentleman from Poland, of course the Norwegian band as well as French Elise & The Sugar Sweets.

Belgian Black Cat Biscuit posed stylishly in black suits. Here we got to hear slides, stylish jumpswing, shouting and Bo Diddley groove from a well-playing quintet. An added plus for a good guitarist.

Smaller blues items and heavier items have been common from Romania, but this year the Romanian was the big surprise and one of the best bands the first evening. The measured time went too fast from the excellent soul-singer Aminda Nomade opened with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” until she finished with Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman”. The band’s other major holdings were guitarist Rares Totu, tonight’s favorite guitarist for the undersigned.

Poland provided another highlight with the trio The Smooth Gentlemen. Pianist Bartek Szopinski created a good mood and received a response from the room with his entertaining boogie woogie. He is already a known name in blues circles, among others. through the band Boogie Boys who has visited Norway several times, and who has also been featured here in Bluesnews. Boogie Boys have also been finalists in IBC in Memphis.

GB Blues Express på scena fredag. (Foto: Frank Nielsen).

GB Blues Express on stage Friday. (Photo: Frank Nielsen).

Geir & co

As band number eight on the first night, it was clear to our boys, Geir Bertheussen and his Blues Express. The band had refined the program at the outdoor concert earlier in the day, and when the band finished the set of “Rock This House” in the great great concert venue, it felt like they had got a full flap. Whipped up by 50-60 Norwegians with flags and calls in front of the stage, the atmosphere in the hall reached new heights. It was obvious that this went home – not just the Norwegians! But we had to wait until the next night to know how well it had gone.

Last band out on stage Friday was French Elise & The Sugar Sweets, a soul band fronted by the great, younger singer Elisa Heyte. They appeared as a very good, interplayed band and musical of the best this evening.

Saturday with 11 new bands

Saturday at 9pm it was ready for 11 new bands. Among the bands that were our favorites Saturday were Trainman Blues from Denmark, English Kyla Brox Quartet, Dutch The Dynamite Blues Band and Marino Valle Band from Sweden.

Trainman Blues a band that we have known at home for a while, and which we know provides quality. They also did that in the Azores. They asked without the blues guitarist veteran Ronni Boysen, but guess we noticed the guitarist anyway! The young Joachim Svensmark delivered energetic blues guitar that really sparkled. The style of the band can be described as dimmed American music. The mix of the band’s dimmed style and Joachim’s energetic guitar playing was absolutely brilliant. And the singer Richard Farrell, in our opinion, was EBC’s best male singer. So liberating to hear a band knowing that the song is the band’s most important component, and has understood the meaning of “less is more”. It was a great response from the audience. We had faith that Denmark would end up in a top spot.

The same belief we had when it came to the next band on Scena, English Kyla Brox Quartet (picture above). The excellent singer from Manchester has already established a career and also represented the UK during this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis. She and the band convinced within their 20 minutes. The band was interacting, safe and proft, and Kyla’s great, powerful voice left no doubt. As a dot, she delivered a solo on the cross flute, and on the finishing ballad “she took off completely” in the vocal phrases. The audience confirmed that it was a highlight by giving her the evening’s most loud response.

It was no easy task to follow Kyla and her band, but Finnish Jo Buddy and his trio took the audience back to a more traditional blues style. With his easily recognizable light voice and swinging guitar playing, he created a nice, personal sound with organist Nieminen and drummer Down Home King III. Finland brought with them a number of supporters, and they could almost compare with the Norwegians with their flags and calls in front of the stage.

Ninth band this evening was Dutch The Dynamite Blues Band. Here we got to hear four younger musicians in swinging and energetic blues. The singer and mouthpiece van Werkhoven sang well and entertained the audience with their jumps and bounces and walks around the scene. Stylish guitar playing by Jacob Jan van Duijn. One of the highlights was the classic “Evenin”. The band became many favorites this evening.

Last band out in this year’s EBC were our neighbors in the east and Marino Valle Band. Since we in Norway are well acquainted with Marino’s soulful voice, this was a band we had expectations for. The band is relatively new, and was able to present their first recordings during their stay in the Azores. We were not disappointed by either the newly released EP or the band’s performance on stage. We got to hear soul songs and soulful blues as we are used to hearing from Marino Valle. He posed with a very solid blues band in the back with eg. bassists Mikael Fahleryd (ex Sven Zetterberg Band). This was a band we had expected to see in the top of the results list, but that should not happen.

The decision

The judging panel consisted of Czech Lucie Kalabova, German Timon Menge, Marie Tarrach Bävholm from Sweden, Emanuel Soares from Portugal, Ashwyn Smyth from England and Montse “Big Mama” Pratdesaba from Spain. It was these six who had the task of voting out number one, two and three. The bands are rated in five different categories, where points are awarded from 1 to 5: Originality, instrumental skills, vocals, stage presentation and blues content.

It all ended with a pretty clear victory for British Kyla Brox Band. The Norwegian band who were favorites after the first day ended in a great second place. Dutch Dynamite Blues Band ended only a few points behind the Norwegians.

At 02:35, the three winning bands were called up on stage to receive the trophies. The five Norwegian musicians in the GB Blues Express were overwhelmed and touched and cheered as if they had won the competition. Mostly touched was frontman Geir from Senja who did not hide the fact that he had difficulty holding back his tears. A great day for our guys!
Just congratulate the GB Blues Express and thank the five musicians for a great effort as ambassadors for the Norwegian blues.

Blues Behind The Scenes Awards

Three awards were awarded to enthusiasts in the European lute environment. In the category “Media”, the award went to the German magazine Blues News. German musician and organizer Erkan Özdemir received the award in the “Promoters” and Hondaribbia / Carlos class
Malles Promotion received the “Production” award.

Blue market

This year also gathered a good number of exhibitors. Here were represented festivals, clubs, magazines, radio, blues bands, booking agencies and others. From Norway, there were fewer than previous years. Norway’s exhibitors this time were Norwegian Bluesunion, Bluesnews, Fjordblues and GB Blues Express. The market was added to the cruise terminal at the city’s seafront, which hoped to attract a little crowd outside of the visiting blues people. This had the organizers effectively reduced to a minimum by introducing cover charge for the first time in history. A little smart move that we hope will not be repeated next year.

De tre vinnerbandene under avslutningen av EBC 2019, fra v. The Dynamite Blues Band (Ned), Kyla Brox Quartet (UK) og GB Blues Express (N).

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