The 26th Notodden Blues Festival was opened, with a crowd of 3000, watching the main stage in Hovigs Hangar on Thursday, August 1st. Mayor Jørn Christensen and Gerd Kristiansen, leader of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) did the formal opening of the Festival, while the crowd were also treated to performances from Dana Fuchs, Charlie Musselwhite, Good Time Charlie and the new homegrown favourites; Norske Menn I Hus og Hytte!
As always the show was broadcast live on the radio. Hosts Bård Ose and Robert Sætervik made sure to deliver their normal high quality show, with interviews, facts and previews about what would happen during the festival. Veronica & The Red Wine Serenaders were the first to perform, as they were the winners of this year’s European Blues Challenge.
Mayor Jørn Christensen welcomed everyone to a city that celebrated it’s first century jubilee, and he directed a special thanks to all the volunteers that make the festival possible.
The second band on stage was the relatively new band ’Norske Menn i Hus og Hytte’ (photo above), which has members from Notodden and the local areas. The band has become a local favourite through their new album, and music with Norwegian lyrics. A lot of radio airplay during the summer has also helped the band to gain a foothold.
Gerd Kristiansen then had the honour of performing the official opening of the festival. In her speech she said Notodden had become the most important, and also the largest blues fest in Europe. She also made a point of how the former industrial town now has changed into a bluestown, where the blues has taken over the old industrial buildings and made the town more known for blues than industry.
Another jubilee was marked as the band Good Time Charlie (above) performed and opened the 30th year of their career. This autumn the band has two different releases for the audience. They played the very first Notodden Festival back in 1988, and will perform on several stages this year.
The performance of GTC and their front-man Arle Hjelmeland happened at a part of the show which would be around the time of the announcement of the Blues Award, which most people in the audience expected would then be handed to Hjelmeland, who certainly would be a worthy recipient.
Many people were surprised as this did not happen and the award instead was handed to the city of Notodden. This due to how the city has always been helpful and willing towards the festival. Many people reacted to this, and were of the opinion that Hjelmeland should have received the award instead.
Then the crowd gave a warm welcome to an old friend; Charlie Musselwhite, who has visited the festival many times, and was happy to be back again.
Dana Fuchs and her band finished off the show and they proved once and for all why they have become such a loved act in Norway. The crowd went wild and ‘I love you Dana’-cheers plus loud applause filled the air.
A perfect opening to what can only be another perfect festival at Notodden!
By Rune Endal