Little Steven Blues School – Experience from Poland

Thanks to the generous scholarship from European Blues Union and kindness of the festival’s management team we were able to stay for over a week in the Norwegian town called Notodden.  It is a really beautiful city placed in the valley and we stayed in the school just by the enormous lake, so we could feast our eyes on the stunning, picturesque view every time we wanted to. The Bok & Blueshuest building was next to the school. That’s were all the blues history lessons and practicing in student bands took place.
Every band had it’s own practicing room full of amps, drums, keyboards and other great gear. Our first task was to prepare 2 covers of the classic blues song. We chose I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters and Messin’ with the Kid by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. It was hard in the beginning but after two days of practice, with the help from each other and from the teachers who were very supportive, we had the songs ready and they sounded really good.
The second task was to compose our very own song. This process was especially interesting, it was like building something from the Lego bricks but in a musical way of course 🙂 Like Charlotte mentioned before we decided to prepare a funky blues song, titled “Funky Vibe”, it came out really well and we can’t wait to share it with you. That’s the song we recorded in the Juke Joint Studio the next day, with the help of a world class musician Banana from the Youngbloods. We played those 3 songs on a few gigs around town, it was great fun.
Later on the Little Stevens Blues School ended and the Notodden Blues Festival began. We took part in the interviews with the stars like Billy Gibbons, Eric Gales, Joe Louis Walker on Friday and with Monster Mike Welch, Johnny Moeller, Troy Gonyea and Kim Wilson on Saturday. It was amazing that we had the opportunity to talk to them for a little while and take pictures of course. Przemyslaw adds: “Later in the evening I met Mike Welch on the street and he recognized me and asked me if I know the way to the building where he was giving the interview earlier during the day. I said that I do and I’ll be glad to walk him there (the school I stayed at was right next to it). And that way I got another opportunity to talk to Mike for a  while, a thing like that can happen only in Notodden!”
We spent the afternoons and evenings at the concerts, it was amazing to be able to see all these exceptional musicians play one after another… It was truly a magical time in a beautiful town and with the great company of very kind and interesting people. We are extremely glad that we could be there and we are already planning to visit Notodden again in the future!
Barbara, Charlotte, Jakub and Przemyslaw

EBU at Santa Maria Blues Festival In Azores Islands

Board member Lucie Kalabova travelled to Santa Maria Island in Azores. She enjoyed an amazing festival as well as promoting the EBU there. Now she wants to share her impressions about her time there.

Each festival has a certain appeal, charm and quality, for both the artistic part, the energy, stories and memories it creates and for things it ignites and makes grow from there. Santa Maria Island is a very unique place in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and it’s Santa Maria Blues festival is a very unique event, for many reasons. Here’s to mention a few from this year’s, which was the 16th edition, held on a gorgeous site on the island’s shore on July 18, 19, 20.

Santa Maria Blues was three nights of stellar skies and blues by some of the greatest artists of the day. The festival was kicked off on Thursday night by Delta Blues Riders, a Portugese band who also represented Portugal earlier this year at the European Blues Challenge, which was organized by the same SMB crew and held at Ponta Delgada, Açores. The second part of the night’s line-up belonged to Kyla Brox Quartet, this year’s winner of the European Blues Challenge and this lady with her band owned the stage and the crowd completely with their world class performance.

The second night started with an excellent set by a legendary, four times Blues Music Award winner, Joe Louis Walker. Looking back at his more than half a century long music career he says “I’d like to be known for my life long belief and faith in music and in blues. Sometimes I learned more from the failures than I did from success. That made me stronger and made me desire adventure. It helped me to find and develop my style.” Joe Louis Walker left the stage to a huge applause and was followed by non the less great set and big bang by Shaggy dogs, a band from France who brought and entertained the crowd with a very much fun mix of blues and rock’n’roll.

The final night of Santa Maria Blues opened with a set from Gwyn Ashton, a british musician, who’s played in 32 countries around the world and who also opened for Joe Louis Walker’s concert in Prague, Czech Republic, last year. It is Gwyn, who says in one of his strongest songs “the road is my religion” and his set was a great, intimate one man show and had the audience’s full attention rightfully. The following was a Houston Texas native, Annika Chambers with her great band, including her Canadian fiancée Paul DesLauriers on guitar. She was just beaming and the Texas thing she brought was amazing, high energy, upbeat and sassy sound that got everybody up and dancing, she had a strong connection with the crowd and brought us all together just the way great music can. The last but not least was no one less than the true legend, the “blues boss”, Mr.Kenny Wayne with his boogie-woogie piano and his excellent band. That was all about love and passion for music, much fun and great energy brough about by this piano master and such a brilliant way to close the festival.

Apart from all the great live music, each night was complemented by excellent dj sets, to keep the crowd together and on our feet till the sunrise. During the day there is much to see and explore around the site of the festival, to swim in the ocean at one of the island’s beautiful sand beaches or in the seaside pools, to enjoy some great views and just soak up all the timeless beauty, calm and peacefulness of the island.

Much appreciation and respect to the organizers, to the whole Santa Maria Blues crew, who do an outstanding job, taking care of all the logistics and people who come to the festival. This year’s total of visitors in the three days was 6.388, which basically doubles the population of the island. Most of the crowd comes from the biggest island of Açores, Sao Miguel and the rest of the islands, from the Portugese mainland as well as other European countries and from the United States as well. The festival visitors are offered some delicious local food, traditional Santa Maria soups, meat or vegetable stews, traditional Portugese sandwiches bifanas, salads, home made deserts offered by the residents or the famous Santa Maria melons. There are numerous bars and drink stalls on and around the site. The accomodation on the island is limited, so early booking is adviced, there are comfortable hotels available, private cottages for rent or a nice camping site near the festival grounds. All together this makes for a great and truly unique experience, those who have been, return, and for those who have not been yet, Santa Maria Blues is something not to be missed in the future. Obrigada, Santa Maria Blues. Long live the blues!