Q&A with Romanian manager/director Mihai Razvan Mugescu of Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi – Valcea

"Blues is becoming more relevant in Romania, other organizers are gaining the courage to create blues events and everything is growing bigger and bigger. Music is best understood and lived when putting live audiences and live artists together in the same place."

Mihai Razvan Mugescu (Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi): The Blues Is Alright!

The 5th Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi (18-23 July 2023, Brezoi – Valcea, Romania) is sure to win over your hearts for good! The 2023 return to #BrezoiulLumii comes fully packed with the most talented artists, memorable experiences, and many pleasant surprises. Make sure to mark your calendars early on, about this NEW 6-day long blues music thrill ride! Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi line-up and dates for 2023; Tuesday, July 18: Beth Hart, Ana Popovic, Louis King, The Blues Overdrive, Canaf Wednesday, July 19: Walter Trout, Albert Cummings, Bruce Katz, Rares Totu's Midnight Sun feat. Aminda, Boogie Boys Thursday, July 20: Anthony Gomes, Sugar Blue, Joanna Connor, Marcian Petrescu Band, Vali Racila & Raul Kusak Friday, July 21: Kaz Hawkins, Toronzo Cannon, Ben Poole, Roosevelt Collier, Mike Godoroja & Blue Spirit Saturday, July 22: Eric Gales, Danielle Nicole, The Hawkmen, BluesCore, Green Onions Experience Sunday, July 23: Sugaray Rayford, Larry McCray, Nikki Hill, Mike Andersen, The Voodoo Child. Organized by MENTOR ROCK Association, Aby Stage Events & Brezoi City Hall.

(Mihai Razvan Mugescu / Photo ©  by Daniel & Paula Busoi - Shades And Light)

Project coordinator, Mihai Razvan Mugescu, says: “The idea for the festival came about a long time ago. Since 2013 I've been organizing numerous blues and rock concerts at the club, I own in Râmnicu Vâlcea. I felt I was capable of organizing a festival and greatly wished I would do so. But the idea evolved once I met a very cool guy, the mayor of Brezoi, Mr. Robert Schell, who had a similar idea of organizing a festival in his hometown, a town that had the idyllic atmosphere I was envisioning for my dream festival. We united our visions, skills and resources and Open Air Blues Festival was born with its first edition in 2017.”

Interview by Michael Limnios                   Special Thanks: Mihai Razvan Mugescu

How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Ever since I was 11 and the fall of communism, along with its opening gates to the West, I discovered rock music. My grand discovery was actually the world, the people I interacted with, people who listened to rock and blues, the cool people I discovered I had so much in common with, such as lifestyle, views about life and social attitudes. They are the same people I still to this day love to share my life with, the ones I love most to see gathered in one place.

When did the idea of Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi come about? What characterizes the festival's philosophy?

The idea for the festival came about a long time ago. Since 2013 I've been organizing numerous blues and rock concerts at the club, I own in Râmnicu Vâlcea. I felt I was capable of organizing a festival and greatly wished I would do so. But the idea evolved once I met a very cool guy, the mayor of Brezoi, Mr. Robert Schell, who had a similar idea of organizing a festival in his hometown, a town that had the idyllic atmosphere I was envisioning for my dream festival. We united our visions, skills and resources and Open Air Blues Festival was born with its first edition in 2017. There is not much philosophy behind it! Same as the previous answer, I only tried to offer likeminded people, the chance to experience good music, civility, the joy of life and of the present moment, as well as a context to meet for a few days a year and together enjoy nature and awesome live artists.

Why do you think that Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Romania?

Because the music sounds so good: “Pentru ca e muzica foarte placuta”Blues is a niche in Romania. The masses have not been exposed to this genre, lovers of blues needed to search for it, till recently they were just a small bubble in the wide Romanian population. Festivals have a defining role in helping reveal the blues to as many people as possible. OABFB took this role seriously, betting on the fact that there are blues lovers in this country (or that there could be). Through the courage of bringing super valued artists, of making risky investments, through promoting the event as well as possible, by attracting partners that believe in it as much as we do, we have managed to bring together a beautiful and closely knit community of people throughout the country and in the world - a community called #BrezoiulLumiiBlues is becoming more relevant in Romania, other organizers are gaining the courage to create blues events and everything is growing bigger and bigger. Music is best understood and lived when putting live audiences and live artists together in the same place.

"The idea for the festival came about a long time ago. Since 2013 I've been organizing numerous blues and rock concerts at the club, I own in Râmnicu Vâlcea. I felt I was capable of organizing a festival and greatly wished I would do so. But the idea evolved once I met a very cool guy, the mayor of Brezoi, Mr. Robert Schell, who had a similar idea of organizing a festival in his hometown, a town that had the idyllic atmosphere I was envisioning for my dream festival. We united our visions, skills and resources and Open Air Blues Festival was born with its first edition in 2017." (Mihai Razvan Mugescu and the mayor of Brezoi, Mr. Robert Schell; Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi; 2018 Romania/ Photo © by Andreea Alexe)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

When talking about organizing live music events, we can say you need to have adventure in your DNA to take this path as your line of business. My position doesn't allow me to view it as something other than a business, as much as I wish I could do it solely as a work of passion. Mine and my team's nerves have been stretched to the max, we all know we've been through a pandemic, followed by a war on our border, economic instability, all these factors make our mission feel like playing the lottery. The fact we survive these unprecedented and unforeseen circumstances can be considered lucky; but it's luck seconded by lots of work, flexibility, resilience and more work. 

If talking solely from the music lover's perspective, I have no wise and exciting statements to make. All I know is that music is beautiful and live music is an unrepeatable lesson, a lesson one needs to attend as often as possible. The experience of a live (when music is what's supposed to be) music concert is an intense, unique experience, that I intend to live as many times as possible.

Are there any specific memories or highlights by Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi that you would like to tell us about?!

For me personally there have been so many, interacting with so many lovely artists, having the honor to share with them a word, a drink, a joke, a moment and just being in the audience and feeling that I am living the huge highlight of the day, for so many times.

I felt mostly emotional (as well as thousands other people) in 2022, when Beth Hart called Eric Gales to the stage and they played together the magical encore of "I'd rather go blind", which I believe remains the chance of a lifetime for everyone attending. It was mesmerizing, beyond words.

"Blues and Rock educates people for sure. I would love for as many young people as possible to be exposed to these genres, that's why we always offer free entrance for youth below 14. I noticed that fans of blues & rock are that type of beautiful people that I wish the whole Romanian population was made of." (Photos: Line-up of Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi, 2023 / Mihai Razvan Mugescu & Beth Hart)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don't miss anything from past music. The music is there recorded, it never dies. Plus, contemporary live artists play the best music there ever was. To me, music is split into two genres: what I like and what I don't. There's a lot of stuff I dislike in current music. But also, plenty of stuff I love. There still are many super cool artists who create superb music, the kind of music worth promoting.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I won't start describing the music utopia of my dreams. Strictly regarding Romania, I believe the whole current system of culture public funding needs to be overhauled. To me it's as simple as that: a city hall should not pay huge amounts of money for free entrance concerts of popular, rich artists. These artists already take part in festivals and club concerts, where their fans come and pay tickets. If city halls would use that money to bring on stage good young artists, who lack exposure, they would bring about a whirlwind change to the whole system. Young bands, if contracted for free entrance performances, would be exposed to a public which then turns into paying audiences, boosting the whole industry. Authorities need to invest more in young talents and not waste money on famous bands. That is without addressing the fact that public authorities who fill up already full pockets represent an unjust and unloyal competition for us, independent promoters.

What is the impact of Blues & Rock music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Blues and Rock educates people for sure. I would love for as many young people as possible to be exposed to these genres, that's why we always offer free entrance for youth below 14. I noticed that fans of blues & rock are that type of beautiful people that I wish the whole Romanian population was made of.

Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi - Home

(Mihai Razvan Mugescu with Bluesette Duo, Open Air Blues Festival Brezoi 2019 / Photo © by EN Media)

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