Talking about second chances! Last year, while on vacation, we accidentally bumped on a very promising flyer, only to find out that we missed the announced event. While we were strolling around Punat, eating figs and soaking feet in the sea, in Baška, which is just a little further, Billie & the Kids were reelin’ and rocking’.
All we could do was wipe our tears with those flyers and pretend it’s not a big deal.
Later we found out that over the past few years, Baška (island of Krk) became a hometown of the Big International Guitar Festival, organized by Hal Association, Municipality of Baška Tourist Board and Valamar Hotels and Resorts. We never went to Krk so late in the season and this time it definitely paid off. It was an opportunity for us to bust some groove, because they announced swing music and Vedran seriously started sinking in one of his no-dance-crisis.
It’s time for expectation vs. reality moment: we went a bit earlier to find the concert venue, see the town before dark, polish some square meter of concrete in case we’d like to dance – the usual stuff – instead of that we got stuck in some local supermarket because Vedran needed batteries for some home experiment, but ended up with a bunch of cucumbers, a yogurt and a chocolate. As you expected, we got lost, parked on a pitch-dark hill where we did not see a thing… but somehow came right on time.
Before the first concert we got a chance to talk to one of the organizers, a musician Damir Halilić Hal, who introduced us briefly to the concept of the Festival and the program itself. They continuously work on bringing together world famous musicians that we never heard of, but tend to fall in love with. We had a shared concern about the weather, and our concerns turned out to be justified because it soon started raining – this was just too easy to solve, they just moved the band together with the festival enthusiasts into the small Benedictine monastery nearby.
Anita Camarella and David Facchini duo, partners in crime (and by that I mean music & life) quickly adapted to an unplugged arrangement and were absolutely charming. Their repertoire is mostly comprised with songs of Italian and American swing era and each was accompanied by a short story. So, you could learn how, in spite of the anti-American cultural policies during the Fascism, American jazz music was extremely popular and Italian musicians often went abroad for the inspiration. In a way, they sneaked in American music style and wrote their own lyrics – let’s just say that it confirms a theory that people will always find a way to amuse themselves. They created really cozy, intimate atmosphere and honored us with their version of one of the most famous Italian songs – “Volare”. We found out that despite the fact that the song is usually performed in a cheerful, amusing tone, was originally written as a sad, melancholic ballad. So, it was an interesting twist, showing how something you took for granted can be experienced like a completely different thing.
We couldn’t resist but to buy a few of their albums, but the absolute highlight was an autograph by their little daughter Isobel who also contributed, and as you can see, she’s doing it like a pro. La vera Famiglia Canterina!
The concert was followed by another musician, Scottish fingerstyle guitarist, Ian Melrose. The rain has already stopped, so we moved to the outdoor stage. His meditative style was just the right thing to end the evening with, and it got even more magical when Kerstin Blodig joined in. Their collaboration is called Kelpie and the music they perform has roots in Celtic and Scandinavian traditional music. What she sings about we don’t know, but we were told a bunch of mythological creatures were involved. There even played a Norwegian Christmas song! Maybe it was a Christmas thing, maybe the northern wind blew from Ian’s strange pipe-wind-instrument, I don’t know, but suddenly I felt really cold and unfortunately we didn’t last till the end.
I should’ve brought my sweater.
Unlike the previous day, Thursday was dedicated to blues. Crossroad Blues Band from Prilep, Macedonia rocked the Old Waterfront in Baška, although they deserved more exclusive location and much more attention. This wasn’t some random-tourist-entertainment-band, this was the real thing. Besides some well known blues and rock-blues standards, they played their songs too and I remember being surprised how audience knew the lyrics… The one that really moved me was their interpretation of the traditional Macedonian ethno-folk classic, „Jovano, Jovanke“– a relict from my student days, which sounded very close to Leb i Sol version as I remember it.
It may seem strange, but this Close Encounters scene lasted for a good fifteen minutes – kids were obviously hypnotized, but as soon we started dancing, the usual gymnastics in front of the stage started as well. So, after the concert we couldn’t help ourselves but to meet them and buy their album, the Macedonian one of course. As we already said, we’re looking forward to see them in Zagreb some day!
We saw Alba perform a few years ago, also on Krk, and were captivated by her vocal abilities and interesting arrangements. Friday’s performance by Alba & Leo was just as magical – vivid, energetic and youthful.
Later in the evening we greeted with applause another dexterous artist – Darko Jurković Charlie. I must admit that in some moment I got distracted from listening to music by trying to figure out the technique of playing two guitars at the same time.
Damir Kukuruzović did his best to present the figure and work of Django Reinhardt, the famous French guitarist and composer of Romani ethnicity (after which they named their group), as well as the anecdotes from their concerts and gigs.
Gypsy swing force was strong with us, so we moved to the small monastery to dance balboa – needless to say we got our mini audience immediately – one elderly Italian gentleman who really liked the idea of dancing on such place and a few photographers who captured us.
The one that really got me was „Je Suis Seul Ce Soir“ from the soundtrack of „Midnight in Paris“ by Woody Allen, I love it when they hit me with something I like on so many levels.
Martin Taylor was another world famous Scottish musician who, among billion other awards received one for outstanding contribution to jazz music which was personally presented to him by the Queen of England herself! Well, that’s something. Most virtuoso act very seriously while performing, but Martin Taylor seemed very relaxed and lighthearted, just like his entourage, Scottish-Canadian singer Alison Burns.
All in all, it was a pleasure to be there all four days of the Festival. Besides the concerts, there were also workshops held during the day, so those who would like to learn something from the eminent names like this – save the date for the next year!
Big thanks to Municipality of Baška Tourist Board and Damir Jevtić for letting us use some of their photos for this blog post.