The twenty sixth Notodden festival is over, and it has been a great festival with lots of happy blues fans, great artists who truly enjoyed being at Notodden, and some remarkable and memorable concerts. The festival closed Sunday with a free concert at noon. Saturday was packed with music, from the morning until late night. Here is a report from the last two days. (Picture above: Dana Fuchs)
Saturday is the most busy day at Notodden, with a three act concert at Brygga, blues cruises on the lake, concerts all day at the acoustic stage, and concerts at the two big venues at night. At Brygga Ida Jenshus, Eric Burdon and the Tedeschi Trucks Band played. Unfortunately I never have the chance to see the concerts at Brygga because of the Union Blues Cup, so I missed all three of these bands.
The Union Blues Cup is the Norwegian Blues Challenge, and the finals are held this day. I have been the head of the jury since 2001, and this is one of my most enjoyable tasks every year. Through the challenge I get to see many of the new talents who are going to be the stars in a few years. The winners this year, Marcus Lovdal Band, will get a tour to the Norwegian blues clubs, a spot at next year’s Notodden Blues Festival, plus the Swedish sister festival, Aamaal Blues Festival. The five members of the Marcus Lovdal Band are 19-21 years old and all of them are impressively talented on their instruments, and also already very tight as a band.
The evening concerts at Hovig’s Hangar started with Mud Morganfield, Muddy Waters’ son. He is remarkably like his father, both in style and looks, and he plays some of Muddy Waters’ signature songs, like the Hootchie Coochie Man, Mannish Boys, and also the song that the Rolling Stone made famous for a wider audience in 1964, I Just Want To Make Love To You. Mud Morganfield was one of the festival’s strongest bookings in the traditional blues style, and he did a very good job.
The second artist out was John Mayall, who really don’t need any introduction. Mayall has for a long time been called The Grandfather of British Blues, and no one has complained about this title. The list of musicians who have played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers is remarkable, both in number and in talent, and many young musicians, myself included, started out listening to his records. John Mayall will be 80 years old this fall, but he is still vigorous and has no problems doing a 75 minutes concert.
The last act at Hovig’s Hangar this Saturday night was Dana Fuchs. Together with Beth Hart, Dana Fuchs is one of the favorites of the Notodden audience. She has an energetic live show, moving around on stage, sitting on her knees, throwing her hair, and she has got a strong voice. Her band has been extended with keyboards since the last time I saw her, and that helps a lot for the total sound. I saw three songs with Dana, since I have seen her many days more, and ran down to the Tapperiet stage afterwards.
At Tapperiet, at the same time slot as Dana Fuchs, the Royal Southern Brotherhood played. I saw them Friday night, but I liked them so much that i had to see them again Saturday. The venue is a bit smaller than Hovig’s Hangar, and except for the sound that was just that little bit too loud,it was a perfect way to end Saturday night. Everyone who like southern rock, blues New Orleans style and latin rock should check them out Great musicians, great songs, and their self-titled CD has gone on repeat on my computer after Fiday night.
The Sunday closing concert were with two Norwegian bands, Norsk Utflukt and Valkyrien Allstars. Norsk Utflukt is a collaberation between the author Lars Saabye Christensen and the musician Kaare Virud, plus Espen Fjelle, Baard Slagsvold and Tore Wildhauer, plus this year’s addition Bugge Wesseltoft. Their songs are either bluesy songs sung by Kaare Virud, or music to poems written and read by Saabye Christensen. They have existed for over 20 years, but mostly as a project band. I love the band’s slow approach to their music, and also their high quality lyrics and solid music.
Valkyrien Allstars was the last artist out on this year’s Notodden Blues Festival. They are a 4 piece band consisting of to fiddles, bass and drums. The lead singer is Tuva Syvertsen, and their music is old traditional songs with a twist consisting of some rock, some folk rock, but also sometimes played in the traditional way. The two front musicians have strong roots in the traditional Norwegian folk music, and thy move seamlessly between the different styles. Even if they sing in Norwegian, I think they have a potential for a much broader audience abroad because of their traditional songs and exotic arrangements.
The Notodden Blues Festival is definitely the biggest in Norway, and this year they sold 21.000 tickets, a little bit less than last year. The rain on Saturday at the outdoor concert at Brygga cost the festival many tickets, but that is how it is with all outdoor activity in Norway. Everyone I talked to said that this was one of the best festivals at Notodden, and that is also my impression.
NRK P1 recorded 16 of the concerts at the festival, and they will be broadcast later this year at the program Radio Rock. Check out their Facebook page for details.
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.