Blues is, and always has been, music about the tapestry of life.
I feel lucky to have such a rich stream of inspiration that brings me much enjoyment, as a reader, writer and a listener, as well as a DJ and a dancer.
Being part of a wider community of blues musicians and dancers makes my life considerably more interesting, and I feel lucky to get to travel to different places to play beautiful music for people to dance to.
One of the things I love most is that feeling of complete immersion that I get from blues music and dance. DJing and dancing allow me to be in the here and now; it almost feels like a meditation practice for me at times.
My Blues Journal
I write long-hand most mornings and I have a special journal that I take away with me to blues weekends. This morning I was looking back through that journal, plus another one that I took with me to MezzJelly Blues in New York this summer.
I was inspired to begin a blues scrapbook this year, to collect writings and music notes, tickets, passes, postcards, photos and other memorabilia. I feel quite excited to do that. I’ve already decided that I need to buy a new hardback journal, especially for that purpose.
That idea, in turn, has inspired this post today.
I was going to write a different post, but this idea found its way into my imagination and I had to give in.
Memories of 2017
I would like to offer you a window into my world through a scrapbook of notes, photos and people who’ve inspired me in my blues world this year.
Here we go:
Dublin Fair City
I’m proud to have been on the DJ team at Fair City Blues, Dublin every year. Olga and the Fair City team put together a wonderful event that is very special.
Sunday night is always at the famous Liquor Rooms – an opulent cocktail bar on the waterfront. The tradition is to dance on the Ha’Penny Bridge after the party ends!
Nobody ever wants to go home!
Blues Garden in Gothenburg
I love Sweden very much, and I especially love the energy and spirit of the Gothenburg blues community.
Blues Garden is a simply beautiful festival that celebrates the beginnings of spring after a long dark winter, with a theme that celebrates the joy of the changing seasons.
It seems a long time since I first heard Christoffer Johansson play blues, which was at Blossom Blues in Zurich. His music compels you to pay close attention, and the memory of dancing in close embrace to one of his ballads is something that will stay with you for a very long time.
Christoffer is a charming man and we always find time to sit with each other and talk about music. I am always interested to hear about his work and recording projects.[Related post: Christoffer Johansson]
Towards the end of 2016, Christoffer got in touch with me to ask whether I would listen to his recent recordings and suggest which ones followed each other well. This was something new for me and I spent several evenings listening to the sound files he sent to me.
At the Blues Garden, he presented me with the finished music CD in a special box. He told me that the songs were in the order that I’d suggested. I felt touched and honoured to have been able to contribute in a small way to his creative work.
You can listen to the entire album Et Atropos Occat here on Bandcamp, and purchase it as a download too. If you like CDs then maybe do that instead as it is beautifully presented. I recommend listening to the music through some good headphones to really appreciate his musicianship and the sound of resonator guitar.
Prague in Spring
When Matus asked me to play at Prague Blues Exchange I was delighted. I hadn’t been to Prague before and I’d always wanted to go. I was blown away by how beautiful it was.
Saturday afternoon I joined the party exploring and dancing at some special places around the city. At the end of our walk, we found ourselves on top of a hill overlooking the whole city and dancing to 7 live musicians!
One of my other favourite memories of Prague was the Sunday afternoon party.
Held in a stunning villa in a leafy suburb, we danced all afternoon to live music including Mikey May.
I got to play a little band-break and it felt like the right time to play some sweet soul music.
I mostly chose classics from some of my favourite artists: Sam Cooke featured twice!
I even played one song in French, as I knew Julien from Toulouse would appreciate it, and he did. :)
At the end of the afternoon, Matus told me how happy he was. He’d hoped I’d play a soulful set. That made my DJ heart very glad.
EBI in London
I’ve been on the team for EBI for more years than I can count. I love our midsummer blues and fusion fest in London. [Link to our 2018 event website.}
Usually, I take a lot of photos, but this year I didn’t manage to take any.
Sunday night was our Steam-Punk fancy dress night and I started the evening wearing a bowler hat but I got too hot. I loved DJing a late set as a bridge between traditional blues and fusion.
It’s never an easy call but I was inspired by the crowd of dancers and was happy with what I played.
I was lucky that the Sunday venue was walking distance from home, but I was so tired I took a cab.
Here I am at 4am Sunday.
Tired but happy.
The day after EBI I packed my rucksack and travelled to Glastonbury festival. I was working in the Healing Fields with the Travelling Homeopaths Collective. I was there for almost a week and there were too many highlights to count. [Link to Festival Reflections.]
There is so much incredible live music at Glastonbury it is hard for me to decide who to listen to. One afternoon I went to hear Coldplay on the Main Stage but somehow it wasn’t the right time or place. I looked in my programme and saw that the Hot 8 Brass Band were playing in a tent down the hill, so off I went in search of some music that made me want to m-o-v-e!
The tent was steamy as I entered and the stage was teeming with men wearing oversized red t-shirts and playing shiny brass instruments. (Except for the drummer, of course!)
As I jostled my way to the front, the lead musician whipped off his t-shirt. He was wearing a white singlet.
They started to play a cover of Sexual Healing.
I don’t think I was the only person in the tent who swooned…
Their set was nowhere near long enough and there are never any encores at Glastonbury but those guys milked every second.
I could see why they called themselves the ‘Hot 8’ Brass Band.
Amsterdam: Twilight Blues and Fusion
I don’t have very much spare money to spend on travel or dancing and I only really get to go to events if I’m hired as a DJ, but each year I try to manage to go to one event just for fun.
This year I picked Twilight Blues and Fusion in Amsterdam. I love the Netherlands and I saw that some dear friends were going, who I really wanted to see. I knew I’d enjoy the music as some of my favourite DJs were playing as well as the Valencia Blues Band who I had been wanting to see for a while.
Not having the ‘responsibility’ of DJing gave me a chance to enjoy my dancing even more. The venue had super relaxing seating and there were great people to hang out with too.
Something I love about the blues community is how easy it is to make new friends. When I accidentally booked two tickets to the Van Gogh Museum instead of one, I found a new friendship with Amelia from the United States. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the art of Van Gogh even more for having such an enthusiastic art-lover to share it with!
MezzJelly in New York City
Jered and I chat most days, wherever we are in the world, so it’s never a surprise to see him pop up on my messenger. It WAS a surprise one day to get a message asking if I’d like to DJ in New York!
I nearly fell off my chair!
Before I had a chance to figure out where my travel money was coming from I was announced on the website along with some other guys I hadn’t met before, but I could tell they were pretty famous.
I didn’t know how I was going to hold up to the likes of Rayned Wiles, John Joven and Lo, but I was gonna try! I was relieved when Miguel joined the schedule so at least I wasn’t the only DJ from Europe.
I was so motivated to save money for my New York trip I even had enough to buy 4 dresses on my first day!
(But then again, I do like dresses, and they were in the sale…)
Me and my new green dress went to meet up with Casmira over in Brooklyn. Together we ate salads so enormous we couldn’t finish them, crossed over Brooklyn bridge and did a little shopping in SoHo. Casmira and I knew each other from being at the same events regularly for a couple of years now, and we’d planned to spend some time together while we were State-side. It was lovely to finally get to know each other.
The entire event was all kinds of wonderful, thanks to Brooke, Jered and their team of volunteers. One highlight for me was the Sunday night comps. I got to support some of my friends who chose to compete. Here’s Anna throwing it down for London!
I got to play Sunday night (again!) and felt nervous after John Joven’s incredible ‘Start the Party’ and competition music.
[Related post: The inner workings of the mind of DJ John Joven]
The floor was relatively quiet as some people had to work on Monday and had to leave early. This inspired me to play an eclectic selection of blues music.
John and Rayned each came to keep me company while I was on the decks. When Rayned told me he loved my music, I chose to believe him and was very proud. One dancer came up to me afterwards and told me she loved every single song I played.
Even if just one dancer feels that way, I’m happy.
Octoblues in Dortmund
September and October were just one event after another.
First came Octoblues in Dortmund. Katrin has been the key organiser of this festival for four years and each year I love it more.
This year I got to teach a DJ class on Sunday afternoon, which was something very special for me. [Related post: DJ Tips Part Two]
One other highlight was to see and hear Dan Nash and Rufus jamming. I have huge respect and admiration for both of them and was so happy that Katrin persuaded them to play together.
You may be surprised to hear this but when their set was finished, and we’d all danced to some beautiful late night blues from Annette, Dan and Rufus joined us on the dance floor.
They totally broke loose to some funk I ‘happened’ to be playing…
Toulouse Blues Exchange
Hot on the heels of Octoblues came Toulouse Blues Exchange. The last rays of summer in the south of France were glorious and I was glad to have packed my summer dresses.
While I was in Toulouse I enjoyed spending quality time with my friend Sam, who moved there last year. Sunday night we discovered we were both wearing our LBDs (Little Black Dresses) just by coincidence.
Berlin Blues Explosion
I practically have to do a month of prep for Berlin Blues Explosion! It’s a mammoth event with four nights of late night parties, plus I’m the DJ ‘OverLord’ so I don’t get much time for sleep.
One thing I love about BBE is the Tangoloft venue for Friday and Saturday night. It is so elegant and the floor is like silk.
All the music at Berlin is outstanding. There are so many gifted musicians in that city, and they just get better year on year.
Stefano Ronchi, Marcos Coll and Dan Nash totally killed it on Sunday night! After I played the opening set and counted all the DJ team were in the house, I felt I could relax. That was when I took this photo.
They all call each other ‘brother’ and you can see how they love playing together.
Cider House Blues
The very last event I DJed in 2017 was Cider House Blues.
I love the vibe there. Tris, Ross and the rest of the Cider House crew have created a super-relaxed community festival, and I love being part of it.
The early evening parties are on an actual boat in the harbour, and the late nights are at a cosy yoga studio with a kettle in the corner.
I often need a cup of tea when I’m DJing the early hours.
This year I could only be there for one night and so I made the most of it by having dinner with my lovely friend Isabella from Copenhagen.
I first met her at Octoblues and I always see her at the Blues Garden too.
Blues at the Joker
My last dance of the year was at The Joker in Islington. There’s a blues night there every Wednesday, with dance classes and live music afterwards.
I can’t often make it as it clashes with my karate class, but I try to get there when I can.
I heard that my friend Ray Wallen [Related post: Ray Wallen] was playing just before Christmas so I went along. He was playing with Davide Mazzantini as the Dust Me Down Blues Band, but I didn’t manage to take a photo.
Here he is playing at the Joker earlier this year with Dan Nash.
Dan and Ray were the first two musicians I got to know when I started DJing. I wish I could manage to be in two places at once sometimes so I could get to see them more often…but I’m not really complaining.
My scrapbook of memories this year has taken me the best part of an evening and I’ve loved every moment of it.
If you’ve managed to stay with me, thank you! I hope you enjoyed reading about my year with the blues.
I hope I get to see you on a dance-floor sometime in 2018.
Happy New Year!
This was written by Tracy, and this is her blog. She loves to play and dance to all types of blues. When she has a spare moment she likes to read and write about it too.