Supersonic Blues Machine head to Norway for Notodden Blues Festival
A collection of top-drawer guitarists buddy up to form a six-string supergroup, Supersonic Blues Machine, and it’s more than just mutual back-slapping.
Two Jews and a Native American walk into a bar… No, that isn’t the opening line of a joke, it’s what happened on the Saturday night at Notodden Blues Festval, two hours outside of Oslo. There probably are contemporary exponents of blues rock and boogie who do adhere to the ancient stereotype of shit-kickin’ redneck Caucasian good ol’ boys, but the core members of Supersonic Blues Machine aren’t three of them. Those three are bassist Fabrizio Grossi, an Italian-Jewish New Yorker, drummer Kenny Aronoff of Russian-Jewish descent, and singer-guitarist Lance Lopez who is of Native American heritage, from Texas via Wales. “We’re all part of the United Nations, and you either belong or you don’t,” Grossi decides in the lounge bar of a hotel opposite the entrance to the festival.
Lopez, at 38 the baby of the band, is every inch the laconic cowboy with his stetson and Texan drawl.
“We’re bringing together all these different guitar players and musicians from everywhere. It symbolises unity on a broad front,” he offers.
Grossi is so animated that his ponytail flaps about as he speaks. The lynchpin of the Supersonic Blues Machine operation, he talks in italics and capitals, his every pronouncement an exclamation of surprise.
“It’s crazy,” he says of his band’s headline slot at Notodden, which is only their second-ever gig, not counting the trio’s many years as sidemen and session players. “It’s insane. Ridiculous. Who’d have thought Norway would be a cradle of the blues? But the knowledge and the passion of the people here is incredible. How the fuck is that possible? Maybe because the world is so connected.”
He stops for a moment, then his eyes light up. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the next blues explosion came from North Korea!” he exclaims.
That country’s head honcho Kim Jong-un rocking out to Bone Bucket Blues and Running Whiskey? Stranger things have happened. Still, you can forgive Grossi’s excitement. After all, look who he’s managed to sign up to play at tonight’s show, which he envisions as a touring version of The Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus. As he says: “I want it to be like the late sixties/early seventies, with lots of jamming among friends. It’s like, instead of staying home and playing pool let’s go on the road and make some noise.’”
Milling about in the lounge bar are guitarists Walter Trout and Robben Ford. Huddled in a corner are Steve Lukather of Toto and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. It’s like an issue of Classic Rock brought to life: respectively, a blues great, one of Musician magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists Of The 20th Century, one of the top 10 session guitarists of all time according to the Gibson Guitar Corporation, and the man that Jimi Hendrix famously deemed to be his superior on the instrument.