Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Bluegrass Dzem 2010

Bluegrass Dzem ('jam') in Komorni Lhotka, Czech Republic, 28 Aug. 2010: photos and text by Lilly Pavlak

In the north-eastern Czech Republic, near the Polish border lies Moravian Silesia. Komorni Lhotka, where the festival took place, is a little old lovely spa town surrounded by woods. Although the weather forecast was bad enough – rain and cold – the bluegrass audience and musicians seemed to be waterproof. The place under the big tent was soon well filled. The festival began at 2 p.m. with the traditional bluegrass anthem 'Will the circle be unbroken'.

The programme

Vrtaci with the festival promoter Vlada 'White' Bily

As first came on stage the local band Vrtaci. In their repertoire was obvious love for the songs of the Seldom Scene and Tony Rice.

Vrtaci on stage

The promoter’s band Bruno Unit followed.

The long tent for the audience

Another view

The next group, named Bezdobra (which means 'without dobro') surprised us with a new dobro player.



Then came the great band Album, from North Bohemia, with its beautiful four-part harmonies.

As the highlight of the evening, the legendary band Bluegrass Nova came on stage. It was the only band which represented Czechoslovakia in 1984, still under the totalitarian regime, at the Toulouse Bluegrass Festival in France. Surprisingly, they all came back. (Many other musicians did not; it was the second biggest wave of emigration, after 1968.) They are big New Grass Revival fans and played most of their repertoire there and sounded almost like the original, so the real New Grass Revival who played after them had a little problem... John Cowan asked where they are from and had no idea, that in the heart of Europe some Czechoslovakia exists. The band disbanded after the tragic death of their banjo player Milan Zourek, who was returning home from holidays with his family when his car was literally smashed by a Soviet military vehicle of the occupation, whose driver was drunk... It was shortly before the Velvet Revolution in 1989. To his memory is devoted the annual festival Sumperske Pomenky.

After twenty years they decided to put together the reunion, with original members and new banjo player. They started a firework of their incredible music and had a bombastic success. The audience just loved it and wanted to hear more and more. I wish the New Grass Revival members could listen to them now, and maybe they’ll think about a reunion as well.

Evening refreshments

The stage at night

Everybody calmed down by the fantastic music of Monogram, who for sure are well known by most of you. Another highlight came, especially for men. I thought the Country Striptyz was just a name of a band… Actually it was a real stripper named Sexy Pamela...

The rain started again, but everybody was happy and even some dancers appeared on the concrete floor in front of the stage.

On the stage appeared the first lady of Czech folk and bluegrass, Pavlina Jisova & Friends - her daughter Adela Lounkova, Jakub Racek of Monogram, and Pavel Peroutka of Relief.

It was almost midnight and the festival was (after many encores) over. All the bands and me too, as the farthest visitor, got as a reminder a glass of homemade jam, according to which the festival was named. And the real after-Jam began.

Thanks to the promoters Vlada White Bily and Ivan Honzak and all the sponsors and helpers; without them the festival would not be possible.

Sunday morning after...