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Homepage | News | Page Two | Page Three                                 (See Also October 05 Visit | July 05 Visit)
Älvdalen Festival June 2,3,4 - 2006

(Updated Monday 19th June 06)

For those who organised the festival, all I can say is thank you! Especially Arne, Anders, Rune and Stefan. Of course there were many more involved including Karl Erik J:r, but sadly the names of most you meet elude you in the excitement. Then in the aftermath of getting back to reality you only wish you'd gone around with a notebook in your hand all the time!

Two weeks down the road I also wish I'd had time to do this page sooner, but so much stuff was put aside with another festival in the UK a few days before we went to Sweden that things had really piled up by the time we came back!

I say 'we' because yes, Chris came too, our third time in Sweden in just under 12 months. There was still a great sense of anticipation as we took the car, the plane two trains and a bus to get us to Älvdalen.

Maybe a car is easier once you arrive in Sweden, but it's a long drive too, so why not take it easy as the public transport is very prompt and reliable although the last section - the modern bus - did have a few worrying squeaks every time it pulled away!

In fact the bus was the only minor potential problem for us as I didn't have the small enough change for the fare! I only had a 500SKR on me fresh from the airport ATM, and the bus could only change a 100SKR. So I had to make a public appeal to the rest of the passengers to change the note.

Starting out at 2am from our UK home, we arrived at about 4pm at the Hotel Älvdalen having had many short naps along the way. So we were relatively fresh for whatever the evening had in store.

Anticipation of meeting friends again, enjoying the sunshine and wonderful views of the country as a whole; and for Chris the anticipation of being able to play something this time at the event.

In fact there had been a kind of plan (maybe that sounds like we were organised)... let's say a rumour that perpetuated around emails that us UK and US contingent were going to 'dust off' and do a small performance for fun. Believe me there was as much dust on us as any other 'old collectable' at the event! But more on that later.

People were arriving throughout the week, so by Friday afternoon most of the groups were in town. Here we see Karl Erik S:r's sister, posing in front of a Cadillac with owner Arne Johansson. 

We arrived late Friday afternoon to another rumour. There was a drinks and nibbles invite up at the house, so before we had a chance to settle our bags, we were off to meet Karl Erik, his wife Maria, and many friends and family.

Some guests had never been to the house before, and were "dressed to the nines" in readiness. We were still in our very casual travel clothes, but it didn't matter. Champagne, Wine and Beer and Cider were the order of the day, with plenty of chat to soak up the atmosphere.

An awning covered a row of tables and chairs where much chat and banter ensued. Karl Erik in usual form switched mid conversation to ask a guest a little test question: "What is one half and one third" and before you can think five sixths, he's waved his hand as much to say "your mind is not as quick as you think..." with a broad smile of course. There was lots of history in discussion of course and the mix of information, books and memories even included asking Manfred to translate some 'Old German' which, (as it transpired) was maybe a bit too old for even his fluent translation. As such it was a mixture of nations enjoying the generous hospitality a way into the early evening.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting someone who worked for Hagström in the UK many decades before making the finest and most advanced accordions in the world, which is a part of the story I hope to develop further soon.

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The Opening Ceremony
The official opening took place on Saturday at noon, with the traditional annual presentations away from the exhibition hall, up near the statue of Albin.

People gathered in the area below the statue along with musicians, the media and TV cameras to capture the ceremony. A full array of Strings, accordions, guitar and other instruments provided the potential for a full concert if that was needed.

The arrival of Karl Erik senior and his wife being chauffeured in a 50's Cadillac set the scene perfectly, a nice touch of detail including the Elvis number plate, all courtesy of Arne!

Speeches and presentations were interspersed with great music and a happy atmosphere, not least the fact that Karl-Erik was able to be there, people were glad to see him joining the throng if even from a short distance initially.

Pictured right we see Stefan with "the most famous musician in Europe" as he was introduced to me many times, along with the explanation of another historical anecdote that led to this title.... darn where was my notebook... help me out here guys... Thanks to Rune Martinsson for reminding me his name - Lasse Lönndahl... and now the last page of this report has a great picture now of some of these guys as they were back in the 60's. Well, not Stefan of course!

This icon of a man went on to sing along with the assembled band a rendition of "Tulips from Amsterdam", in Swedish of course, which was a treat for the crowd that joined in the chorus, as much as it was for us 'interlopers' from overseas. Rune Westlin was the featured guitar player, and we'll see more of him later too.

At this point I should add that when you come to parts of Sweden you must understand the nation's ways. To many, these friendly people will seem very distant to begin with. I would go further to say it is a shyness - maybe much needed in other parts of the world these days! Always remember these people do not 'blow their own trumpet' as we say (or often do) in the UK and USA.

It has taken me some time to put this into perspective, but when you realise many people still question why anyone should still be interested in their history, only then do you begin to understand what the people are all about.

For this reason I feel very privileged to consider many people at the heart of these event as friends now.

Nevertheless, I was glad that there were other media cameras and photographers in attendance - to make my 'darting around' with cameras and the like seem a little less intrusive. For me (as those who know me) "the Hagström thing" is as much the story and the people, and the atmosphere as it is the fine music equipment and instruments that so many still enjoy.

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The Festival Itself
The festival event was based at the ice hockey stadium (fortunately the only ice around was for putting in the drinks), and the venue provided ample space for a dual use - one side a large stage and gig area, the other the formal displays and collections of the Hagström Guitar and Accordion era. The other key ingredient being a large bar that separated the two. Outside there was a funfair, and two large covered barbeque and food hall marquees. Everything was in place for a great weekend.

Our friend Stefan was busy with organising too, his band Larz Kristerz were demonstrating the equipment on the exhibition stages showing Hagström through the decades, that equipment that outlives all expectations! As a consequence we didn't have the opportunity to stop and chat anything like we have on previous occasions. Anders Barke too, was in and out of sight much more than allowed us the chance to talk. But then I'm always taken over by these events, and do not realise the missing moments until it is all over and we're on our way home again.

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However Anders Karlsson and his lovely wife Kicki were also there having driven about 6 hrs up from the south, and in true form, they had considered much more than their own needs. They brought a superb black HIIN-OT with them for Chris to use in the hotel room, (and elsewhere). They also decided to 'give him a break' from the Hagström mania, to go and see the local sights including a superb waterfall nearby. So in some ways Chris got more variety out of the weekend than I did, but then that's the way it should be. So, many thanks to Anders and Kicki for their thoughtfulness as always!

 

After the opening ceremony people made their way down to the exhibition. The Cadillac was again put to good use, taking guests of honour down to the hall. Everything was ready, and soon they'd start the demonstrations, chat to visitors and at last, make all the work that had been put into organising the main event, come to life.

The weather outside was kind, and although not up to the scorching temperatures we'd experienced last year, it was probably about right for most people. It was a fair walk from hotel to exhibition hall, and we took the route two or three times a day. Once outside you are treated to displays of old American cars, most in wonderful condition. If people can't afford a real oldie, they usually had some kind of convertible instead and always a good crowd of passengers.

My son was most intrigued by this as his other passion is cars, cars, cars. He's the kind of kid that says "wow" to every tyre-mark on the road, imagining the event that left such evidence. Clearly there is a certain amount of acceptance of this sort of display driving, and I was told there is a fairly low key police presence in the area... the nearest officer living about 200km away from Älvdalen! So it seems the community looks after itself well, for although plenty of car parading took place in the evenings, and inside the event those that wanted to consume alcoholic beverages, did so with reasonable fervour, but never did I see any disturbance.

One more car-based anecdote needs a mention now. Soon after we arrived we were approached by Karl Erik's wife Maria, who informed us that when we visited last October we had left a toy car behind. We were invited to return to the house the following day to collect it. Now, given the amount of visitors this amiable couple receive over the weeks and months, I was amazed that the car had even been remembered. But that's just another example of the niceties and hospitality we have experienced while in the company of the good people of Sweden.

Ok, so lets go inside the event and see what was on offer shall we? Well the first thing I have to say is that the collections were spectacular. Ulf, Arne, Manfred, and many many more had their special collections on display. There were also many examples of equipment and drawings from the old factories. Many I'd not seen in my previous visits to Sweden.

The display stands also included live demo's of Amtech's Echo Pro guitar echo system designed by Peo Ollson, being played through Strats and Burns Reissue guitars to demonstrate the Shadows sound and other special effects. Another great attraction was a very special new amp from Älvdalen that really drew some attention. Developed on the origins of some original Hagström ideas this new stack system had all the Class-A attributes to attract more than a passing glance. Still in final prototype stages I really look forward to hearing and seeing the final - state of the art - Älvdalen hand wired professional amp. The company Digistream developed it along with Trond, and have even used some original Hagström equipment for the facia manufacturing. If you take a look at the video you'll see another  glimpse of this future winner.

Also in the video you'll get an in depth view of the special BT100 amp head, developed for use on the ABBA tour 1974. The amp is a one off development of the standard Hagström BT100, modified by the renowned Hagström technical wizard, Peo Ollson, now owned by Lennie Johnsson.

Click the picture of Lennie to see the video open in your player. It is a bit loud in places, and being 150kb broadband video, is not as clear as the true sound, but it demonstrates the principles quite well still. Chris was already playing around with the Swede through it when Lennie offered to do a live demo for the camera...

There was definitely a big commitment made by the exhibitors for the event. The examples on display covered many more items of special interest than simply the guitars and accordions. You'll hear later about an 'other brand' guitar that could have eclipsed (in market value) many other items on display, yet sat in a quiet corner for most of the weekend!

After the events of the day, we were invited to a special Saturday night dinner hosted by Karl Erik S:r, and the family. Sited in a Marquee adjacent to the main hall, we were treated to kebabs, salad and (yes, that bottle), some Swedish lager beer in a limited edition decoration of a Hagstrom Label.

The label had been especially printed for the occasion, and presumably a very limited run! So why do I have a picture of an unopened bottle here?

Well, don't tell anyone, but Chris doesn't drink much yet (as far as I know) and he passed his over to me to keep.

So I was in a good position to "have my beer and drink it" to borrow the saying.

I had noticed there was a fair amount of discussion about returnable bottles going on around the marquee as many people wanted to keep the empties as a keepsake.

A few of us realised it should be less of an issue than it appeared to be - especially given the unique occasion.

Maybe one day we'll return it for a refill... Mind you, like I say don't tell anyone eh.... Thanks!

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Meantime we found ourselves torn between invitations. Friday evening we'd spent some enjoyable time in Arne's hotel room with the delicacies of dried reindeer and a comprehensive range of drinks. We were aiming to repeat the occasion in some form, but hadn't yet left the marquee having found ourselves deep in conversation with people at the meal.

As people moved on, we anticipated a pleasant walk up the road to the hotel and some relaxation in the lounge maybe, and an early night for Chris. No such plan came to fruition, in fact the evening was only really starting to pan out... 

Soon the remaining party were back in the exhibition hall for an evening of chat. Karl Erik S:r clearly on good form was also there directing the impromptu event from his position at one of the tables, even dialling the Hotel and passing the phone to me to ask the others back to the hall.

I was pleased to find he was feeling up to this event, as many had feared he may not be able to join in due to frail health these days.

No such frailty of mind of course, and I strongly believe Maria is probably the only one that can still 'keep him in check'!

(It was no surprise how quickly the hotel answered the phone), but nevertheless, the other half of the group were clearly out of reach by now.

With both Karl Eriks in attendance, many other people to chat to, and plenty of refreshment from the bar, there was a lot of discussion on the day, and we were likely to be here for some time...

The exhibition stages were all dark by now, and in a few hours the late night concerts were due to start, but maybe it was a good opportunity to make a private demo for the special guests.

Once again Lennie came to the rescue, this time with his wonderful Patch 2000 demonstration. Using a Swede Patch Bass that had been restored to working order from some schematics I received from Kwinn Kastrosky and other people, which I'd emailed to Manfred Graeder last year and by good coincidence were available on his PC to pass to Lennie at the Östersund show last September. (OK time to take a breath). You can view this video too by clicking on the picture above right.

So, the demo was about to begin, when under the direction of Karl Erik, 'Buddy Rich' was called to join Lennie on the stage!

This was a generous description for Chris's enjoyment of playing drums, and he took about 1 second to decide to take up the offer!  Apart from this video demonstrating the Swede Bass Patch, you can view portions of some original 1977 footage of the Swede Patch Guitar, that we obtained during our previous visit to Sweden in October 2005.

By the time Chris was ready to sleep it looked late at night inside the exhibition hall of course - as you see above. Yet once you step outside you are reminded why people stay up so late. Why the main concert doesn't even start until about midnight, and why the old American cars get paraded so regularly.

Sweden at this time of year is coming into the period where the sun never quite sets.

You'd step outside expecting streetlights to be your only safety like back home, and find a never ending sunset which is promptly followed by sunrise again at around 3am!

Needless to say despite the lack of night, any redness in the sky was echoed by the redness in your eyes unless you did decide to go back to the room, and get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day, and it doesn't seem like we've just been in Sweden for one day so far! So, a late night burger from the barbeque, and off we go back to the room. Funny how kids always wake up and still want to find a channel showing 'The Simpsons' even in the middle of the night... In the end it was me who went to sleep first, but I suspect the duration of viewing, following our discussion about "I'm not tired" didn't last all that long.

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There's nothing like a REAL original Swedish made Hagstrom (and there are loads around), but if it 'floats your boat', or you can't find an original then who are we to say?

Plenty has been said already and
will be said forever forward probably.
Only you know what's right for you!