Bluestown Rising Documentary under development!

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The Notodden Blues Festival is currently working to develop a documentary about the Notodden Blues Festival and it beginnings. Little Steven is in place as the Executive Producer. Details coming soon!

We cannot show you it quite yet, but here is a teaser with some visuals taken from the Pilot:



Bluestown Rising

Industry grinds to a halt in 1987. The factories in this isolated Norwegian town of Notodden close overnight, leaving nothing. From the dust, 13 young women and men create a Blues Festival that now 30 years later is one of the best in the World. This is their story.





They were 18 and 19 years old back then. Working the blazing furnaces at the ironworks under chimneys spewing dark brown smoke over town – dirty smoke that meant money, townspeople always said. In the evenings they listened to music and they played music. Music always walked hand in hand with the workingmen in this town.






The big iron works employed one thousand people. Safe jobs, homes were built as the brown smoke from factory chimneys covered the sky. The future looked bright for a long time.

But in 1987, almost overnight, in this town of 12,000, one thousand people are thrown out of work. The smoke disappeared, as did jobs and money.

It is a devastating blow.






Just short weeks after the shutdown, 13 young men and women meet in the hotel in the center of town, just a stone’s throw from the silent factory buildings. Mostly musicians, they share one idea – to create a blues festival.

Together they go to the local bank, putting their savings, their borrowed money, and their futures on the line to organize and stage the first Notodden Blues Festival in 1988. Just 2,000 tickets are sold, but for the young organizers, it is a success beyond their wildest dreams.







This small mountain town becomes known as a place where “small clubs burst at the seams, restaurants transform into Mississippi jukes, and alleys sprout stages and sound systems and morph into intimate venues.” (Blues Foundation, Memphis, Tennessee). Notodden is honored as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, and the connection with the sister city of Clarksdale is complete.

Big names appear at the festival each year. Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, John Mayall, Dr. John, Robert Cray, Wilson Pickett, Little Feat, the Black Keyes, Steve Winwood and Charlie Musselwhite, who first came in 1990 and will again perform this year at the 30th Notodden Blues Festival in 2017.





By 1997, the Notodden Blues Festival clearly can show how far it has come in less than a decade.

The King of the Blues, B.B.King, plays two legendary concerts that are still spoken of to this day. The Notodden Blues Festival continues to grow in size and stature.





A do-or-die situation once again faces the townspeople as troubles strike in 2010. A combination of horrific Nordic weather and bad luck put the Notodden Blues Festival on the brink of bankruptcy. Attendance is way down, and the future looks bleek. Jostein is the head of the Blues Festival now, and in the days after the festival he brings Runar Lia to see if it can be salvaged, or if they should call it a day. Runar Lia and Ed Murphy become key persons in the process of turning things around and get the festival back on track.





The next year is filled with uncertainty as the festival balances on the edge of bankruptcy. Is it possible after 23 years to continue their success? The answer is a resounding yes! The festival makes a triumphant return in 2011, receiving the ‘Keeping the Blues Alive’ award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.

The town, it’s people and a collective effort to lift this unique festival to national and international success is an important part of its story. The Norwegian word «dugnad», almost like «it takes a village» has been a key ingredient.






2017 will be truly unique – it is the 30th year of the Notodden Blues Festival – and to mark this milestone, Steven is returning to his musical roots with a new album of blues and soul, reuniting with musical friends to play the festival.

Expectations are great, and the documentary follow Little Steven’s performance and his visit with the town of Notodden. 40,000 visitors will visit the Notodden Blues Festival and the whole town will play a part in the event, either as volunteers or as proud hosts, a meeting of both old friends, and new faces, in the streets of this small town.




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