This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Back in France after four days at the Femø Jazz Festival with the Vintage Jazzmen. Now in its 25th year, the festival takes place each summer on the small Danish island of Femø (4 sq. mi., 125 permanent residents). The headliner this year was New Orleans's own Lucien Barbarin, who did a funky set with the Danish group Six City Stompers. Our band included Dan Vernhettes (tpt.), Francis Guéro (tbn), Jean-Luc Giraud (dms), Pierre-Luc Puig (bass), Enzo Mucci (banjo), and guest vocalist Denise Gordon.
     Femø is a strange place. The island itself is tranquil, remote, rustic, with vast fields of wheat and rye criss-crossed by narrow roads, surrounded by the blue Baltic. There are two villages consisting of a dozen or so traditional houses, a few shops and cafes, and a port with a grocery store, a sausage stand and an outdoor bar that is frequented from morning to night by Danes dedicated to what appears to be the national sport: nonstop guzzling of beer and schnapps.
     I have never seen such relentless boozing—even in New Orleans. Men, women, young and old, seem to spend most of their time imbibing. As a result of this—and a fatty diet heavy on sausage, pork, and cheese—many of the Danes we saw on the island were obese and most of the men sported pot-bellies the size of watermelons. Unfortunately, this does not stop them from going around shirtless, letting it all hang out, and in many cases exposing tattoos marked by a frightening gothic angularity. Admittedly this is vacation time and probably a non-representative sample of the Danish population as a whole. And the other side of the coin is that the Danes we met on the island were welcoming, tolerant, and easygoing.
     The festival takes place in the middle of a vast campground, surrounded by tents and trailers. (There are no real hotels on the island.) Upon our arrival, we were  taken aback by our accommodations: abandoned trailers with no toilets or running water, no electricity (until a Rube Goldberg network of extension cords was hooked up), and in many cases no wheels. These rusting hulks were musty and moldy, infested with mosquitos, and became veritable ovens when the sun beat down on them.
     None of which seemed to bother the organisers, who have done things this way for a quarter century. Actually longer: Femø traditionally attracted back-to-nature nudists who came here each summer to get away from the rigidly organized life of the cities and sprawl out in the sun, sleeping in tents or in the open air. The nudists eventually disappeared (or put their clothes on) but the festival retains elements of their no-frills culture.
A remnant of nudism remains in one restricted area of the island: the so-called Women's Camp, which each year attracts several hundred women of all ages. It began as part of the women's rights movement, but is now dominated by lesbians. Men are strictly prohibited, though transsexuals who were born male are admitted with proper identification. Needless to say, the boys in the band didn't get a chance to make first-hand observations.  (ø)

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