I do not believe in horoscopes, witchcraft, or UFOs, but when I got in the car with Chino, Rod and Giggs to go to Toulouse at the European Blues Challenge 2013 I had a hunch. And I told him: “I think you’re going to be seconds.” I’ve known them for many years and I know that most people who attend one of their live shows do not easily forget it. By this rule of three, the jury must appreciate his talent. Although surely they would compete with other bands of great musical level, with which something told me that the second rung of the podium was feasible.

We arrived at the Grand Hôtel d’Orléans about midnight on Thursday, shortly after dinner at Mc Donald’s at the entrance to the city of South West France. Rod drove the four hundred kilometers that separate the Vallcarca neighborhood from Barcelona and Toulouse. The expectations were great and the European Blues Challenge was presented as a unique opportunity to meet programmers from any country, winning or not, was secondary. Neither for Chino & The Big Bet nor for the many fans and friends who accompanied them would have been a disappointment not to go up to collect a prize in the party room Le Bikini, where the contest was going to be held.

After a beer and a taco of beef and cheese sauce, at two-thirty on Friday Chino, Rod and Giggs stepped on stage for the first time where they were to have their twenty minutes of glory. The sound test was fast, just ten minutes out of the twenty-five that were programmed. Get some sleep in the hotel, get ready in the room and back to Le Bikini to prepare some of the great moments of the career of these three musicians who have installed their headquarters in Barcelona.


In the dressing room, shared with the Austrian musicians (good people), moments to warm the limbs, to review some finals, to timing some subjects. Cigarettes and some beer, little, and chicken with sauce and baked potatoes to fill the stomach. And it’s after dinner that I see nervous Chino for the first time in a long time. He is aware of the trampoline that the European Blues Challenge can bring to his training. The prize does not matter, but in twenty minutes must convince the public and the programmers and knows that there may be a before and after Toulouse.

22.30h. The moment arrives and its energy invades the room. Although the rush to avoid wasting time are somewhat obvious and Chino’s guitar is out of tune because of such a radical change in temperature, the Barcelona trio has the audience tucked into the pocket after two songs. Bad Boy Blues, Your love is dinamyte or Hush were the great successes of a performance that raised enthusiastic applause in the solos of each of the members of the formation. Final and ovation.

Congratulations of all kinds, of organizers, of programmers, of blues fans, of other musicians. The goal had been fulfilled: surprise. The next day, in the professional blues market, one of the attractions was Chino and his Big Bet, receiving the interest of festival programmers from all over Europe. Now there was only one doubt … what the jury had considered. “No, we certainly did not win” and “why not ?!”, that Saturday was all possible. In fact, there were still ten bands left to go on stage at Le Bikini. And I, of course, continued with my premonition. “Seconds, listen to me, you’ll have seconds,” I repeated.


“And the second place of the European Blues Challenge is for … I’ll say it in Spanish: Chino & The Big Bet,” exclaimed Jean Guillermo, vice president of the European Blues Union. The three musicians who had already won the competition in Spain were now consolidated as one of the reference bands of the European blues. Smiles, hugs and flashes. A small jam with the other winners and to celebrate with the people of the Barcelona Blues Society who came to give their full support.

Before the awards ceremony we repeated over and over again that if they did not win then nothing happened. Yes, of course, but second to Europe is the host, more when you compete with twenty other countries and the jury is made up of six experts of the genre. At noon on Sunday, luggage, return the hotel keys, some photos with the award and au revoir, Toulouse! A city of which I can not write wonders, because we did not have time to visit it, but it will always remain in the memory of the Barcelona blues as the place where Chino, Giggs and Rod consolidated their trajectories in the international arena. Congratulations guys! Seconds … if I already told you!

Eric Lluent


The Barcelona of the beginning of the present century had become the meeting point of many international street musicians who saw the Catalan capital as an excellent opportunity to make a living doing what the body asked them. Every corner of the Gothic seemed to be a good stage and the public, every day changing, was willing to reward them with the good moment lived with a few coins or buying their self-published disc. The city became the reference of the street music of Europe, a space with very little regulation, little police pressure and great tourist influx. In that context, those with more talent met and began musical projects of great attractiveness, some of them incorporating local musicians, less accustomed to step on the street with their instrument but with more academic studies. “In 2004 I studied at Conservatori Liceu and started doing street work with a band of dixieland, Los Krokodillos, in which all were foreigners but me. This experience gave me resistance, we played with cold or hot weather. But the street is very hard”, recalls Martí Elías, drummer Bernat Font Trio and soon to record disc with the Canadian pianist based in New York Gordon Webster. In the field of blues, ragtime, swing and manouche, the 2000 ‘street jazz’ generation was forged, the members of which were severely affected by changes in the rules for street musicians. Ciutat Vella and the Civic Ordinance, which came into force in 2006.

It was then that a few passionate jazz decided to stay in Catalonia and promote self-managed musical projects, drawing money from the bowls that came out in the rooms they programmed. Iván Kovacevic, bass player of Mambo Jambo and Bernat Font Trio, among others, the russian Mikha Violin, leader of Los Krokodillos, or the argentine Hernán Senra, better known as ‘Chino’, founder of groups such as “Down Home”, “Shine” or “Chino & The Big Bet”. “Before on the street in two hours you could get 20,000 pesetas. It was the golden age of street music in Barcelona, ​​but that’s over”, Senra laments. To date, the schedules and spaces are regulated, including the number of musicians who can act in a formation. “After the regulation one no longer knows how to make a living by playing in the street so we have looked for other ways to get ahead. I am now in five different bands and that’s why I have more concerts”, explains Violin.

The internationalization of these musicians who were forged in the open is not new, but it should be noted that in the last two years the activity has intensified. One of the most graphic cases is that of Kovacevic, who during 2012 has been working in countries like Colombia, Mexico or South Korea. The serbian bassist came to Catalonia in 2001 and one of his dreams was to travel with his instrument and meet new cultures. “I was surprised by the presence of the European and American blues in South Korea and in Mexico, in Colombia it is harder to find”, Kovacevic reflects after a year of intercontinental flights. Speaking of scenes of active blues, the Barcelona has nothing to envy most European capitals. As explained Miriam Aparicio, president of the Barcelona Blues Society, ​​every night in the Catalan capital can be found two, three or four concerts and jams of blues. “Now there are more smaller venues that program than 10 years ago, more musicians playing blues. Another thing is the labor situation of these, which has stagnated or worsened, like everything”, analyzes Aparicio.

As a symbol of the consolidation of the export of blues and swing born in the streets of Barcelona, ​​Chino & The Big Bet musical project has been selected to represent Spain in the European Blues Challenge to be held in Toulouse (France) in March. The training led by Hernán Senra, voice and guitar, and argentinean Rod Deville on the double bass and young Granger drummer Giggs Nother (all of them settled in the Catalan capital for years) will take their cool rhythm and thug to a stage that is presents as a unique opportunity to reach programmers and festival organizers from all over the continent. “Music is not just playing, it’s not just the technique of the instrument. It is about being authentic up on stage without imitating anyone. That’s what the greats have done and it’s what we want to do in Toulouse and any of our concerts”, says Senra, who organizes the blues jam at the Harlem Jazz Club in Barcelona every Tuesday for seven years. If they win in Toulouse, they will go to the International Blues Challenge that is organized annually in Memphis (United States). Precisely this week are participating in the contest of Memphis the Suitecase Brothers, duo formed by the Catalan brothers Víctor and Pere Puert


Only a musician who has grown professionally in the street could carry out a gesture like the one he saw last night on the stage of the Coliseum in Barcelona, ​​on the Gran Vía with Rambla Catalunya. Half an hour at eight in the afternoon and the blues and boogie marathon of the Barcelona International Jazz Festival followed his script. On top of the stage The Big Bet, with Rod Deville on the double bass, Martí Elías on drums and Chino on dobro and vocals. Last song. And Chino approaches the microphone not to sing but to explain something that, according to him, can not be silenced. It can be seen that the contracting company had arranged a table in which the public could acquire the discs – self-edited – of the bands that formed the poster of the night. Upon arrival at the theater the company informs them that 25 percent of sales will be left by the organization. Chino decides not to leave a cd on the table. After telling what happened to the public, he opens his silver suitcase, leaves it open on the edge of the stage and heads to the audience: “Take these CDs, tonight I’ll give them to you.”

I’ve known Chino for over four years. He is a very good friend and I could tell you a thousand stories of his concerts and the projects he leads – another day I will – but Sunday was the best performance I have ever seen and, curiously enough, he did not need to touch a single Rope of its double inseparable. The song that sounded was the dignity of those musicians who too many nights are not known by masters of locals who do not know or because they program music and who wake up to update their website and facebook, eat fast to go to class and fall asleep past the two after acting in any bar in the city.

Chino opened the suitcase and the people rushed for the discs. There was not one left and there were about fifty. Later, those who wanted to come to leave some coins or some money. To him, who grew up playing in the streets of downtown Barcelona, ​​this scene should bring him good memories. In the end, enthusiastic applause. The concert was not bad. The lesson was wonderful.

Eric Lluent.