Staging a fit at 15: Dark Season Blues celebrates landmark anniversary with musical family reunion; here’s how to crash the party for free without a ticket


Fifteen. An age of intense emotional and intellectual moodiness.

Not always a great trait for a nuclear family, but one raging with potential for the longtime family of musicians who will reunite in various forms as Dark Season Blues, Svalbard’s biggest music festival, celebrates its landmark 15 anniversary that started Wednesday. This year’s five-day festival features 20 bands performing a record 43 concerts, with an emphasis on revisiting and expanding on a decade-and-a-half of history.

“I have tried to pick some of the artists we have had at the festival over the years,” Gry Sneltvedt the festival’s booking manager, told Svalbardposten. “And then there has been a goal to get some variation within the music genre.”

And while the multi-day festival passes have long-since sold out – as usual – there’s plenty of ways to hear this year’s lineup of musicians, especially for those familiar with the impromptu practices of past years – or who simply monitor the festival’s official Facebook page during the late-night and early-morning hours.

The festival opened, for example, with an open, free-of-charge “kickstart” jam session at 11 p.m. Wednesday at Barentz Pub. While that session is a new addition this year, those “in the know” have packed unofficial free jam sessions starting at similar times in past year at Karlsberger Pub (which doesn’t host “official” night concerts) and other venues. (As festival organizers put it, the sessions are so packed there’s no need or desire to advertise them.)

Also, many of the nightly multi-concert events at various pubs around town – as well as the two-stage blues marathon on Saturday – have opened their doors to all during the waning hours when the crowd also starts to dwindle.

There’s also an expansion of the free “blues lunch” concerts offered at midday, with two each day Friday and Saturday, and an additional one scheduled for the first time at 1 p.m. Sunday. Finally, the festival will wrap up Sunday evening with a jam session featuring most of the festival’s artists – along with anyone brave enough to bring their instrument/voice on stage – that typically lasts until the wee-morning hours on Monday.



Dark Season Blues 2017 schedule


5 p.m.: Official opening of the Dark Season Blues 2017, featuring mini-sets by festival artists. Kulturhuset. FREE.

7 p.m.: Steinar Albrigtsen & The Daily Blues Band. Kulturhuset.

9 p.m.: Daniel Eriksen feat. Stig Sjøstrøm; Terry Hanck with Tomi Leino Trio. Barentz Pub.

9 p.m.: Mike Andersen; Grainne Duffy. Svalbar.


Noon: JT Lauritsen w/friends; blues talk w/ Øyvind Rønning. Barentz Pub. FREE.

Noon: Billy T Band. Svalbar. FREE.

3 p.m.: Acoustic blues w/ Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken. Mary Ann’s Polarrigg. Festival passes not valid.

5:30 p.m.: Atmospheric blues and three-course dinner w/ Steinar Albrigtsen, Monika Nordli, Ernst Nikolaisen and Daniel Eriksen. Spitsbergen Hotel. Festival passes not valid.

8 p.m.: Big Creek Slim & Peter Nande; The Bluegrass Playboys; Eric Slim Zahl & The South West Swingers. Barentz Pub.

8 p.m.: Silo; Women in Blues; Dave Fields. Svalbar.

8 p.m.: Reidar Larsen & The Storytellers; Mike Vernon and The Mighty Combo; Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. Kroa.


Noon: Rita Engedalen & Backbone; blues talk w/ Øyvind Rønning. Barentz Pub. FREE.

Noon: The Bluegrass Playboys. Svalbar. FREE.

1 p.m.: Steinar Albrigtsen w/ Monika Nordli. Mary Ann’s Polarrigg. Festival passes not valid.

3 p.m.: Reidar Larsen, Arne Skage and Knut Hem. Mine 3. Bus departs from Mine 3 at 2:30 p.m. Festival passes not valid.

3 p.m.: Run. Karlsberger Pub.  Festival passes not valid.

7 p.m.: Two-stage blues marathon. First-floor stage includes Big Creek Slim & Peter Nande, Mike Vernon and The Mighty Combo, Dave Fields, Terry Hanck w/ Tomi Leino Trio, Grainne Duffy, and Eric Slim Zahl & The South West Swingers. Second-floor stage features Mike Andersen, Sugaray Rayford, Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, and JT Lauritsen & The Buckshot Hunters w/ Deanna Bogart & Jimmy Carpenter. Huset.

9 p.m.: Billy T Band; Daniel Eriksen w( Stig Sjøstrøm. Karlsberger Pub.


1 p.m.: Reidar Larsen & The Storytellers. Barentz Pub. FREE.

6 p.m.: “Gospel Train” concert featuring Diunna Greenleaf, Reidar Larsen, Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken. Svalbard Church. Festival passes not valid.

9 p.m.: Jam session hosted by Billy T. Radisson. FREE.