San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cuban social club gives it up to smoking hot blues

Music fans relished to the tunes of steaming blues on Saturday, dancing the day and night away at Club Cubano in Guachipelín, west of San José, as the Costa Rica Blues Fest rocked on.

In its third year, the lineup and turnout were the best yet, according to festival organizer and blues musician Mauricio Ledezma. A U.S. and Costa Rican dual citizen, Ledezma gave a high-energy performance with his Blues Devils Band, cranking up the upbeat side of the genre with rocking guitar and vocals and Ledezma´s swinging harmonica playing.

Local and international bands traded sets between an indoor and outdoor stage, while heaps of barbeque-style food was served and beer kept flowing. The venue was a Cuban social club but the crowd was a mixture mostly of North Americans and Costa Ricans.

The biggest draw at the event was a soulful 81-year-old singer and guitarist, Texas Johnny Brown, the headliner of the festival, along with his Quality Blues Band.

Ledezma said that while living in Texas he used to go see Brown perform and fell in love with the music. After a long wait for Brown´s nighttime act, the crowd quickly learned what there was to love. The music had a richness and range that at times visited funk, soul and even reggae, and at other times brought it back to straight up blues.

“Now I do it my way, and I feel pretty free to do it the way I want to do it,” Brown told The Tico Times in an interview before his set, describing what its like to be a front man after years of accompanying others. The blues veteran´s career started in 1948.

“(Things) may not be the same way they were back in those days, but melancholy is melancholy. It remains the same,” he said. “So I try to do my blues where I make everybody understand, the young and the old,”

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