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Thess Blues? Festival: Making Dreams come True

Over these seven years we were lucky enough to meet the most amazing people out there, so when we decided to actually do it, several people came in mind in seconds. We didn’t want to just make a concert of blues, with Blues Wire or Blues Cargo headlining and one or two cover bands backing them up, no. Blues Wire and Blues Cargo have shaped the blues scene of Greece and are well respected by anyone who listens to the blues in this country, but “Thess Blues” had to prove that there actually is a blues scene in Greece, other than Wire and Cargo. Sakis Dovolis, Small Blues Trap, Blues Trackers… these were all great bands to start with, but we decided to go with friends, cause when friends meet, good things happen.


Among all the awesome bass players I’ve met so far, Fotis Dovolis is the only one I’d choose to back me up as a session in Deep in the Top. I just love his playing that much. I first met him in a jam session in Ioannina city and it was also the first time we performed our ‘two guys-one bass’ jam, which we continue to do whenever we meet. So I hit this guy on the phone and ask if he and his band “Mini and the Moochers” wanted to come over and play for our festival. He said yes before even asking the rest of the band! The Moochers are a great band with swingy energy, everybody in Ioannina knows them. They also got an album out two years ago, go check it out!

 

 

Hoochie Cootchie Men

Everything was ready, but it still looked like an ordinary gig.

Now, Mike has the upsetting habit to come up with new and irrelevant ideas just when everything seems to be ready. That was one of the times that Mike’s idea really took the project to a whole new level. He wanted to add interviews, workshops, exhibitions and all kinds of crazy stuff to the show. All these ideas had to come down to a realistic point. We didn’t know many people to interview and we didn’t think that any people would be interested to listen anyway.

 

 That was the case with workshops as well. It was a big risk. I still consider it a big risk to organize blues interviews and workshops in Thessaloniki, cause I don’t know how many people would actually come. The blues audience needs to grow and that’s what the festival was about, but all this needs to go step by step. Anyway, the idea of the exhibitions was the one that stuck. It could work as a way to promote local luthiers and pedal manufacturers. We didn’t have to search either. Longtime collaborator Giannis Pavezas has been letting Nikos use his amazing guitars for quite some time. Nick also gave a call to Andreas Goumas, who makes these beautiful “Badpixel pedals” and he also said yes. (You can hear Badpixel’s amazing fuzz pedal in our song “Greed” and many more in our album “Blues in Different Colours”).

 

We loved the idea of coming together with bands we like ever since the day we started. Actually, our first gig was among two other bands of friends, back in 2010. That said, I can’t really remember the first time someone proposed we made a festival. What I do remember is that it all happened really fast. It must have been late August 2014 when we booked the venue for the festival. The festival’s name? Well, it had to be fresh, it had to be short and it had to be catchy. It also had to be something referring to the place where it’d all happen. We came up with “Thess Blues?” quite easily and immediately sent the idea over to our friend Panagiotis Gavrilis who also made the design of our first album, and so our dream now had a logo! (“Thess/Θες” in greek means “do you want?”. It is also the starting letters of our hometown, Thessaloniki).

Mini and the Moochers

Next up, I called the jazzy cats from Corfu. We met George and the rest of the “Hoochie Cootchie men” in a completely drunk festival in Ioannina. Now that I think of it, most of the times we meet with these guys, we end up drunk. They agreed to play, but didn’t want any money. They said we should keep it, as a reward for what we made. Of course we didn’t let that happen.

So, with a few more phone calls, ferry and bus bookings and soundcheck arrangements, the festival’s line-up was (almost) ready. Now we had to arrange everything else. Sponsors, ads, trailers… We all knew several blues and rock bars to ask if they wanted to get their name on the festival’s posters, banners, ads and more. What always happens is that you ask 100, you get 20 answers and you‘re lucky if ten of them are positive. What we had to do was ask anyone we could. After all, we managed to collect some money from sponsors ranging from rock bars to our friend Lambros’ little shop that made toasts and crepes!

So, after all, we came to add a Paveza guitars and Badpixel pedals exhibition to the show, thanks to Mike’s annoying habit of coming up with last-minute crazy ideas.

But this wasn’t the last piece of the puzzle. Two more things were about to happen before October 31st. the first was an open call to photographers that we came up with. We gave them “Blues in the city” as a subject and they were free to send us their photos. Anything from a guitar to a landscape was acceptable, as long as it had that urban blues feeling.

14 photographers’ work was displayed all around the venue and it was the last beautiful detail we were to add.

 

Did I say last?

We had this beautiful all-young, all-original and promising project, but we had to secure the support of the previous generation, so I sent an email to Michael Limnios. He is a great guy with huge experience in blues music, poetry and literature and with endless interviews and projects in his portfolio. Limnios had discovered Deep in the Top some years before the festival and we made an interview that was featured in blues.gr. I knew there could not be a serious blues festival without the approval and support of the country’s blues community.

 So I sent Limnios an email asking if we could use the blues.gr logo on our poster and if the festival could be featured in their official site. He was more than happy to promote young people involved with the blues, so we got this done nice and easy. We also had to get Blues Wire involved in this. It would be the last and best evidence of bonding between generations of blues in Greece. I caught Zaikos on the phone and asked if they were willing to play a 30-minute set, as a support band! Well, that was as good as support can get.

 

 

The last couple of weeks found me and Nick in a “clothes-per-kilo” shop, searching for a nice and sharp coat for me to wear. My sister would shoot the festival’s trailer and I’d be a blues man, dressed to kill, guitar in hand, a smoke between my lips, walking to the place where a blues festival was about to begin. It’s all out there in YouTube if you want to see it. We knew nothing about movies, trailers or acting, but we had fun with Nick being the director and with my sister on her first job with the camera. To be honest, the trailer looked terrible, but we didn’t care, we were one step closer.

 

There’s not much more to be said about this whole experience. The gig of course was massive, with all the bands coming on stage in the end to sing “It’s the blues that I choose” with us. About 400 people came in that day, all of them having super fun. The fact that even today people remember it and ask whether we’re doin’ it again or not makes us think we didn’t make something completely indifferent. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll do it again!

 



PS: Chrono Zero productions, meaning our friends Fotis and Francesco helped us make a full length documentary of this whole experience. You can find it on YouTube. These same great guys are behind the “Had my Chance” video clip and our Live DVD, “Deep in the Live”. Feel free to check these out on YouTube as well.

 

PS2: As for the band, “Thess Bues?” festival was the first time we felt we could do absolutely anything! And even if it’s not true, it surely did affect our attitude towards everything we‘ve been trying ever since.



        
Written by Minas