By Laura and Charlotte Carrivick
Upon arriving in Voorthuizen at around 3pm, shortly after the first bands had started to play, we were surprised to find that you couldn’t take a car onto the camping field and so had to carry everything over from the car park. So, first bit of advice if going to EWOB – pack light! The camping field was relatively small with a car park behind the conference centre for people in camper vans etc. The toilet and shower facilities were excellent – plenty of them and clean. There is a quiet and a noisy end of the field although it seems that after it starts getting dark all the jamming moves inside anyway.
When we went to register we were told of the opportunity for bands to play for an hour in a restaurant or bar in town for an hour for which you would be paid €70. This was something we did and it was well worth it to help cover travel expenses (on top of what the festival already provided). Although we only did one of these gigs, I believe it was possible to do as many as you wanted.
The â€˜t Trefpunt building was perfectly suited to the event with lots of separate spaces for jamming, workshops and the tradeshow with a large concert hall. All the bands that we saw were fantastic and of the highest standard. The tradeshow was also great with many beautiful instruments to drool over and have a try of as well as a stall selling all the usual accessories, instructional books etc. and a separate room full of CDs, records and magazines.
One of the things that I initially thought could be a problem was the language barrier. This turned out not to be an issue at all though as most people could speak fairly good English, or, in the cases of people who didn’t, the names of tunes are still the same and simple gestures can be improvised to say “let’s jam over there”! We ended up jamming with a group of people from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden including the 16 year old Czech Chris Thile equivalent, his cousin who played like Jerry Douglas and a 17 year old Slovakian who played fiddle like Mark O’Connor! One main difference we noticed between festivals in England and EWOB was that the average age of players at EWOB appeared to be significantly lower which shows that the bluegrass scene in Europe is definitely getting bigger.
On Saturday we were involved with the Children’s Programme with some of the other performers, introducing some of the local children to bluegrass and old time through songs such as Old MacDonald which seemed to go down well! We were ferried to the local Church on a little tourist-type train where we set up outside in the sunshine.
After a quick lunch it was time for us to head over to the green room and then for a quick sound check as we were the first act up that day. The sound for the entire festival was absolutely fantastic both from the performer’s point of view and for the audience. Our slot went well and we were pleased to see that the hall was full despite the lovely weather outside!
The winning band for #1 European Bluegrass Band, who will perform at IBMA next year, was a very new band from Sweden called G2 Bluegrass. They were a fantastically tight band with brilliant musicianship all round playing original and traditional songs. Stylistically, they were fairly similar to bands such as the Infamous Stringdusters. The audience popularity vote went to 4 Wheel Drive who will be appearing at the Cornish Bluegrass Festival this year.
All together, it was a great festival and we would highly recommend it to anyone despite the long journey.