Festival Review – Nevis Blues Fest – Part I
Nevis Blues Festival – April 16 – 18, 2015
This year I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend the 1st Annual Nevis Blue Festival held on the tropical island of Nevis thanks to generous support by the Nevis Tourism Authority. If you are like me when I was first notified about this event on Nevis Island, you will ask, “Where in the heck is Nevis Island?”
I had to look it up on Google maps and I found it here: http://tinyurl.com/l76ee6a As it turns out, it is an Island in the Caribbean located just off of St Kitts. And man was it ever a cool event and location!
I left for Nevis on Tuesday morning April 14 and arrived in St Kitts around 8:30pm. After a short trip through customs we were met by a driver who took us off into the darkness. I mean that literally as just after we left the St. Kitts airport area we seemed to have left civilization in a time warp. There were no street lights and the roads were passable in our 4 wheel drive vehicle but it required speeds under 45 mph on the paved roads winding down into the night. Eventually we arrived at the eastern shore of St Kitts where a short drive across the beach took us to an awaiting boat in the darkness.
Now some without an adventurous spirit may have panicked a bit as the transferred our luggage into the boat in the darkness. But the friendly van driver and the 2 operators of the boat seemed not the least bit concerned and it was in fact not at all alarming after the driver of the boat asked, “Would you like a beer?”
This was the perfect question after a 12 hour trip and I enjoyed my first ever Carib beer. It is a refreshing lager beer sold in the Caribbean and it really hit the spot. We then started off in our water taxi into the dark. After a minute when my eyes got used to the darkness I could see some distant lights that our pilot was headed for. Nevis awaited!
After a 20 minute or so ride in complete darkness we arrived at the Oualie Beach Resort dock. When we got off the boat there was a hotel and a open air bar with someone playing guitar to a few patrons. We stopped for a minute when I noticed a guy with an soft acoustic guitar case strapped to his back. I said hello and introduced myself to John Yearwood, who I later found out was one of the resort owners and sponsors of the festival along with his brother Alistair and Richard Paviit from Nugene Records.
After a short conversation and sharing a second Carib, we were off to my lodging for the night which was at Nisbet Plantation Inn, a former sugar cane plantation located right on the northern shore of the island. The staff was incredible and shortly took me to my room for the night. You couldn’t ask for a better view, my cabin was the closest one to the beach.
Wednesday morning we were met by Julie Clayton of Nevis Tourism Authority who took us for a tour of Nevis Island. First we visited a few of the local churches, some quite historical like the Cottie church which was the first church were Africans and whites worshipped on Nevis years ago.
We also visited St Thomas Church, the capital city of Charlestown and the Alexander Hamilton museum and then dipped our feet in the volcanic hot springs at the Bath Hotel before having a great lunch at the Indigo in Montpelier Plantation Hotel for lunch. On the way back we stopped in at Sunshine’s Beach Bar And Grill for one of their famous “Killer Bee” cocktails. While the ingredients are secret, I can tell you it has LOTS of rum in it. Tasty!
Later that evening Devon Liburd, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Nevis Tourism Authority (NTA) took us to Hermitage Plantation for a hog roast feast. It included many dishes all of which were made with local ingredients. One of the ones I liked best was Rabbit Pie! Yummy!
On Thursday afternoon Devon was again our tour guide and he took us for lunch at the world famous Rodney’s Restaurant. Rodney Elliott, an island woman who serves genuine local cuisine using authentic recipes handed down from generation to generation. We even tried a glass of soursop juice, too. Soursop is a local fruit and it was really delightful.
After Rodney’s Devon dropped me off at Oualie Beach for a 2 tank scuba dive. What an awesome place to dive. We saw lots of coral, tropical fish, sea urchins, crabs and lobsters. But the coolest thing was a group of green sea turtles who appeared fearless and were so close to us we could have reached out and touched them! . Now that is really showing some hospitality, Thank You so much NTA!
After a trip back to the Nisbet to freshen up we headed out to the islands top restaurant, Indian Summer for dinner. Indian Summer is as the name suggests serves Indian cuisine and our host was the owner Vikas. We let him order for us and he made it a memorable experience, the best Indian food I have ever enjoyed.
After dinner it was off to the first night of the Nevis Blues Festival. There were a couple of local artists we missed called Cultural Express and Greenhouse but we arrived just in time to get our VIP passes and grab a drink at the unlimited free VIP bar as the Ian Siegal Band was setting up.
Now I did not know what to expect for the festival. We were on an island in the middle of the Caribbean with only 12,000 inhabitants and just over 400 hotel rooms on the entire island. It is a tropical paradise with roads and infrastructure that seems straight out of the 1960’s so I was not sure of the lever of professional production that could be found for this first ever Blues festival but I needn’t have worried. Richard Pavitt the owner of Nugene Records in the UK who came up with the idea for the festival had it all worked out.
They had a huge stage that I would guess to be about 40 X 40 and four feet high. It was a covered stage with a great concert sound system and professional lighting. Ian Siegal Band took the stage and my Nevis Blues Fest Experience began.
Ian’s band consisted of himself on lead guitar and vocals, Dusty Ciggaar on guitar, Danny van ‘t Hoff on bass and Rafael Schwiddessen on drums. These guys were very tight.
It was the first time hearing them and I must say they have a great sound. A couple of times Ian threw a lead break to Dusty and man this kid from the Netherlands is a monster guitar player. I think he is something like 23 years old but he must have an old Blues soul.
Ian and the band played for 45 minutes or so and then called up Zac Harmon. It was a good jam and a great performance.
Later anther local artist Nu Vybes finished out the night. It was a rap/reggae kind of sound the crowd seemed to tolerate well. So that was the end of the first night at the Nevis Blues Fest.
Comments and photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine