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!