Notodden Blues Festival 2007, Norway

For those of you who follow everything closely you’ll remember of course that we did a ‘trial run’ to Notodden and had a sold out show at the Arno club, due in no small part to Leiv and his ever-growing group of friends/fans. It was fun to do the run again and pulling into Notodden now has a sort of familiar feel to it. It certainly helps to have such a strong following there but I think that town now has a music feel to it (after hosting the festival, etc. for so many years now). The town has a population of around 10,000 and that swells to over 50,000 for the festival. There is one hotel and for the rest people arrive in campers, on bikes with tents and whatever. There’s music all over town and the atmosphere is great. We arrived on Friday around 10pm. There are very few places where we’d stay in peoples homes these days (for many reasons) but somehow I think a trip to Notodden would seem a bit strange now if we DIDN’T stay with some of the gang. We all stayed in this lovely old Norwegian house on Friday night, owned by a guy called Edvard.

There were a lot of great bands playing on Friday night also so we wanted to hit town if at all possible to catch some of them. After a quick wash and a bit o’ grub we headed into town and down to the venue where we were due to play on Saturday. The Blues Band from England were playing there and both Sean and myself really wanted to see them. We were both big fans of the band back in the early ’80’s. In fact I had the pleasure of supporting them in Trinity College, Dublin back in their heyday and it was a great experience.

We arrived just before they went on, so we had a moment or two to have a beer and check out the venue. Looked fine to me and then the Blues Band were on. It was like the years just rolled back. They looked in good shape and the playing was spot on. Very enjoyable! We didn’t hang around too long as I wanted to be in top shape for the gig the next day. One of the guys – John – has this incredible vintage Cadillac convertible and so some of the guys rode into town with him. I got to travel back out to the house in it on the return trip. That was a nice little extra. We slept in this amazing bed that Edvard had made himself. Seems he’s a real genius with wood. I can well believe it!

Gerry, our accordion player, made breakfast for us all the next morning (and as the Norwegians have been over to Ballyshannon many times they know all about having the makings of a good fry in the fridge!!). I had a new guitar to try out (more about that later) and as there was a music room in the house it was too good an opportunity to pass up. We ran through a few numbers and had a great work out (drums and amps and all were there already). We headed into town early enough to be ‘in situ’ in time. There was a young blues band on before us (and I mean young) but they were excellent. They had this pretty little blonde girl on drums and she was belting out those blues shuffles. The guitarist had a great feel for the blues and I think if they keep going like this they’ll do really well for themselves.

Then it was our turn. We got stuck in straight away and in no time they were not only on their feel dancing – they were on the tables!! That only spurred me on of course so we really put the foot down after that. The sound was excellent and the crew was top class. That always makes a gig a lot of fun and much easier to do. Unfortunately it was all over too soon but we had time to squeeze in a quick encore and the whole thing left us all (both the band and the audience) wanting more. The owner said afterwards that he never books the same band back two years in a row but he said he’s definitely going to make an exception for us for next year. Sounds good to me!!

We had to travel about 20 minutes out to where the hotel was as we were staying there on Saturday night. It was this massive building up on the right-hand side of a hill. After a slight mix up as regards rooms and checking in Suzanne got everything sorted and we all trouped off to the restaurant to get something to eat. I should mention at this stage that ALL the bands/artists were staying at the same hotel so it was hard not to turn this way and that as guys like Jimmy Vaughan, Aaron Neville and Jeremy Spencer either walked by or sat down at the next table. I did feel like talking to Jeremy (and asking him why did you walk off that day in LA) but he was in company and at times like that I don’t feel like imposing myself on people.

Like I said, the hotel was this big, big place up on a hill and even though it was full of people I kept getting these flashes from the film “The Shining”. I could well imagine this place looking like that in the dead of night – and me running around trying to break down the door with an axe shouting “here’s Barry!”

Ahem, back to reality – we’ve posted a few photos on the website

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