A Guide to the Copenhagen Blues Scene

Ever since the blues echoed through the Mississippi Delta all those centuries ago, it has captured the hearts and minds of many, taking a variety forms and spreading across the globe. From Chicago to London and beyond, the blues has influenced the music of countless bands and artists. But despite its exciting and enduring scene, many people overlook Copenhagen as a premier destination of blues music.

The exact origins of Denmark's adoption of the blues is a little muddy, but it's likely that it all began with Storyville Records.

Named after the notorious New Orleans jazz district, the label was launched in 1952 by Copenhagen-based jazz fanatic, Karl Emil Knudsen. Storyville initially sold imported American records to turn its trade, but when the post-war jazz scene began to flourish, American jazz and blues artists flocked to Copenhagen to tread the boards while on tour in Europe.

The buzz around the genre in Copenhagen is a testament to the power and relevance of this incredible art form in the modern age."

Over the years, Storyville became a colossal force in the world of blues and jazz, recording and reissuing records by artists including Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmy Dawkins, Champion Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, and the mighty Sonny Boy Williamson.

Alongside the label, Knudsen owned the Storyville club, showcasing many of his acts to a blues-hungry audience and putting Copenhagen on the map in the process.

The buzz around the genre in Copenhagen is a testament to the power and relevance of this incredible art form in the modern age, and if you're into your Delta sounds or your Chicago grooves, a visit here is essential. These days, it may be a lesser-known music destination, but it sure packs a big punch.

And if you are thinking that Copenhagen is the destination for your next weekend getaway, this guide to the city’s blues players and hotspots will definitely come in handy while you’re planning your trip.

The Copenhagen Blues Festival

Every year, music lovers from across the globe come to Copenhagen in droves to get a taste of the annual blues festival. For five whole days, every bar, club, and restaurant in the city transforms into a blues gigging venue. This year, the likes of 'Blind Boy' Paxton, Tower of Power, and Al Holbrook & Kenn Lending will be playing headline sets at the festival.

This annual festival is one of the world's most authentic celebrations of the blues and everything it represents. Plus, during the proceedings, the Danish Blues Musician of The Year Awards will take place to crown the new champion of Copenhagen.

The action kicks off on 24 October, and there are tickets available for some of the of 40 events taking place. So if you want to dip your toes in the Copenhagen blues scene this year, there’s still time.

Small Town Blues Band - "Living The Blues" (Copenhagen Blues Festival, 2016)

The Major Players

Denmark is home to a host of weird and wonderful artists influenced by the blues, and these guys or gals play in Copenhagen regularly.

Miriam Mandipira

Crowned ‘Danish Blues Artist of the Year’ in 2016, Miriam’s performances ooze heart, soul, attitude, and stacks of melody. Influenced by the likes Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Miriam puts on one hell of a show and is a major asset to the Copenhagen blues scene.

Speaking to us about the scene in Copenhagen, Miriam explained, “I already had 10 years of experience as a professional performing artist by the time I arrived in Copenhagen. Experienced but without a network, I found the city's blues scene to be most welcoming and encouraging. Last year, I was crowned Danish Blues Name of the Year, and my time in Copenhagen is a big part of that success."

Delta Blues Band feat. Miriam Mandipira - "Wang Dang Doodle" (Copenhagen 2014)

Big Creek Slim

Despite now living in Brazil, Mr. Slim is a Danish native and returns to Copenhagen regularly to play to a passionate home audience. With a rootsy feel and a foghorn of a voice, this man and his band bring their own brand of attitude to the blues.

Big Creek Slim - "Biggest Leggest Woman"

Baby in Vain

Born in Denmark, Baby in Vain gained a lot of their experience from playing in the darkened blues and rock bars of Copenhagen, and although this trio lends itself more to grunge and proto-metal with remnants of The Breeders and Pixies in certain song arrangements, there is a strong blues influence in their overall sound. Plus, when it comes to playing live, these ladies are anything but dull.

Baby in Vain - "Muscles" (Live at Braund Sound)

The Venues

At the heart of the Copenhagen blues scene are its venues — the atmospheric hubs of art and entertainment in which it’s easy to get lost for hours on end. Here are the three best blues joints in town.

Kind of Blue

Sporting the look of an age-old tavern with its traditional oak bar and bare brick walls, Kind of Blue has an ambience that lends itself to the consumption of the blues. A host of local and international artists play stripped-back sets here every day of the week, and its intimate setting makes it possible to spark up a conversation with the artists after their performances to find out more about them.

Kind of Blue

La Fontaine

This 100-person capacity venue, La Fontaine, is the city's oldest blues and jazz bar and was once the hub of the Scandinavian jazz movement. This cosy little haunt is dark, intimate, and the best thing is that it hosts an eclectic mix of experimental blues-influenced acts, along with local artists committed to the traditional blues standards of yesteryear. No matter what’s on, it’s always good. If you’re in Copenhagen, a visit here is essential.

La Fontaine

Mojo Blues Bar

Considered today as the mecca of the Copenhagen blues scene, Mojo attracts the cream of the crop, with both Danish-born artists and top international acts of all shapes and sizes gracing its stage pretty much every night. When there isn't live music blasting from the stage, Mojo plays the best of blues throughout the ages and does its utmost to shine a light on emerging artists dedicated to the genre. Plus, if you fancy strutting your stuff, Mojo hosts an open blues jam hosted by Copenhagen's The Rhythm'n'Jam Boys every Thursday night.

Mojo is so ubiquitous with the Copenhagen blues seen, that various artists have publicly sung its praises. Miriam Mandipira feels she personally owes a lot to the place, “Mojo Blues Bar, to be specific, has been responsible for facilitating my growth and establishment on the jazz and blues scene."

Mojo Blues Bar (Photo by Steen L. Frederiksen)

Recounting his fondness for Mojo Blues Bar, Big Creek Slim also sees the venue as somewhat of a second home. “Of all the places in Copenhagen, I really enjoy playing Mojo Blues Bar. Mojo is the best blues venue, not just in Copenhagen, but in all of Denmark. It's the only place where they host blues and roots music almost every day of the week. Besides that, there is a truly bluesy atmosphere to the place, and I enjoy it immensely. I may not be from Copenhagen originally, but I feel at home there everytime I play."

The buzz around the genre in Copenhagen is a testament to the power and relevance of this incredible art form in the modern age, and if you're into your Delta sounds or your Chicago grooves, a visit here is essential.

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