EWOB celebrates 20 years, bows out on a high note

Old Salt performs at EWOB 2017 – photo by Jos van der Lelie

The twentieth European World Of Bluegrass Festival and Convention was held this weekend in Voorthuizen, The Netherlands. All ingredients were there for a huge celebration. Many of the best bands that have played at EWOB the past two decades returned, which resulted in the best line-up of acts in the festival’s existence. The weather was extremely beautiful. With the sun out and temperatures reaching the high 80s (30° Celcius) it might even have been a bit too hot for some.

On the main stage, Old Salt took the Audience Popularity Award. The group, based in Ghent, Belgium, is a collective of musicians from the USA, Belgium, Sweden, and Scotland.

Ronald Groot - photo by Patrick Kelderman

As it stands this will have been the last EWOB. “The venue in Voorthuizen will not be available anymore next year due to development plans on the site by the city council,” Ronald Groot, chairman of EWOB says. And a new location is hard to come by. A suitable location that matches this one in Voorthuizen, with a building that has a concert hall, a number of rooms to house the several convention activities and the possibility to create a campsite next to the building, so far has not been found. 

“The campsite really is the heart of the event. That is where people meet, chat, jam and have fun. We need that to be immediately next to the building so people can walk in and out easily without having to travel any distance. That is the strength of the current venue and the core of the EWOB formula,” Groot says.

Visitors and volunteers keep up hope for next year, but as is stands there will be no more EWOB in 2018.

But this weekend joy and celebration was plenty. With 110 volunteers the event was run smoothly, providing visitors with great music and a weekend never to forget. Some went home with tears in their eyes, sad that it’s all over.

As always the audience voted for the band they loved best. Old Salt won the vote by a mile. The band pull their influences from down in New Orleans to the Appalachian Mountains up into the folk revival of the North Eastern States and jumping the pond to the many sounds from Old Europe.

Another highlight was the performance of Belgium band Rawhide. They are the only band to have performed on all twenty EWOB festivals. They won several festival awards during those years and truly are among Europe’s finest in bluegrass.

Sunny Side, from the Czech Republic, also celebrated their twentieth anniversary. An audience favorite, they were programmed on the final evening, building up to the climax of this final EWOB showcase. This also included USA’s John Lowell Band and mandolin virtuoso Mike Marshall and his partner Caterina Lichtenberg.

Closing the main stage program were Estonian band Curly Strings, who took the Number One European Bluegrass Band Award in 2016. After stunning the European bluegrass community last year with their songs in native language and local folk style, their return to Voorthuizen saw them win even more hearts and a crowd cheering like Voorthuizen maybe never has seen before!

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About the Author

Jos van der Lelie

Jos van der Lelie is from The Netherlands, Europe. He grew up with traditional country and bluegrass music. He was a DJ for The Bluegrass Mix from 2011 until they folded in 2016. He now broadcasts for CountryLand Radio, a weekly 2 hour show with country and bluegrass music on Dutch local radio, also aired through the internet and on a number of stations in New Zealand, Japan and Canada. He is also involved in the European bluegrass scene as an MC for the annual EWOB festivals.

  • Kevin L.

    Until recent years, this event was evolving nicely and was THE place to be annually in Europe.

    Hopefully a new organization (preferably with an international board) will carry this much needed bluegrass torch into a new future.