On Saturday the 19th of February 2017 we were lucky enough to attend the sixth Costa Rica Blues Festival. Yes Blues that mesmerizing gender of music born in the cotton plantations of the United States been played here in Guanacaste Costa Rica. Chances are that when you think of Costa Rica (and much of Latin América) and music you will think of Latin Rythms as Salsa, Cumbia, Bachata etc. But here in Costa Rica rock has had a strong impact trough generations and for extension so has blues.
For the second time in a row the Festival took place at Playa Potrero more specificly in the Costa Rica Sailing Center (more info about the Saling Center coming soon). The venue could not had been better. A very big bar, excellent food, a big swimming pool with a section for kids and a big a beautiful green area where the public sat down to watch the performers in a big professional stage. All of this in front of a very calm and Blue Atlantic Ocean. [I even went for a quick swimming while listening to a band]
We started our journey at 11:00 am from Curridabat, San Jose (in the middle of the country) to Playa Potrero Guanacaste in the Northwest. The journey was timed to be about five hours including two techincal stops one for lunch and one for coffee in wherever place looked good for the task. That is five hours plus 20 minutes of confidently heading the other way because we thought we weren’t needing the GPS…
Around 5pm we reached our accommodation a place booked a little far away of the festival but very well equipped. At 7:00 pm we head up to the “Smoking Pig” a Bar&Grill where a pre-party/jamming session took place. (I was to afraid to jam with that people maybe in the next blues festival). A little before 12:00pm we went back to the Cabins and went to sleep.
On Saturday we woke up early and got ready to experience 12 consecutive hours of live blues. The organization was remarkably good. The festival was schedule to start at 11:00 am doors opened at 11:20 more than 200 people arrived to listen to the first band. The line up was amazing too. 4 Costarican Bands and 3 American bands. And one particular band from Costa Rica compose of several Americans that live here.
The live sound, the lights and the stage were professional. Avenida Blues opened the festival and very soon the public was in the mood for more. The weather was ideal a clear sunny day, not too hot, the best excuse to appreciate the bands from the swimming pool. The kids ran from place to place, enjoying the freedom, the sun, the sand and the notes of the pentatonic scale. The day ran smoothly with presence of private security and the subsequent appearance of curious cops made the space comfortable and secure. Either way the day went by without any complication whatsoever.
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Band after band the mood stood high. People were dancing happily enjoying the Pura Vida singing and listening to classics from Eric Clapton, Muddy Watters, Jhon Lee Hooker and others. The ticket costs $25 and for all day. A part of the revenue was donated to “Abriendo Mentes” a non profit organization that provides kids in the area with additional education focus on computer science, art, and English.
Several people schedule and not schedule jump to the stage to share a few songs. The audience was engage the whole time. Some people left many many others entered. It was simply impossible to run our of things to do. If a band wasn’t playing you could go for a walk in the beach or the buffet section to eat something. Chatting with your friends or make new ones. In the afternoon the heavy hitters started to appear. (this is not in detriment of the first bands whob made an excellent job)
Around 4.00 pm the Leatherbacks hit the stage with Donnie Walsh the father of the Canadian Blues a fabulous harmonica player and permanent resident in Costa Rica. All of these seasoned by an amazing sunset that tinted of orange the sky. After this the lights when up and it was the turn of Chris Ruest trio featuring Gene Taylor. Making and outstanding exhibition of improvisation, blues, piano and guitar skills. Building up for the closing act.
When Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy took the stage the small kids where gone and you could see some of the parents coming back for the close act. Diunna was a powerful and soulful singer. The band did an amazing job playing the right notes at the right time but letting her shine all the way trough. The audience was captivated by the perfomance. And what began as a concert rapidly became a sharing of stories. Diunna is an amazing story teller. By the end of the presentation the audience wasn’t ready to let her go. And as the biggest farewell Diunna choose to went down the stage and sing without a microphone. Showing once again how powerful and outstanding her voice is.
By 12:00 pm the Blues Festival was over. Everyone was happy and satisfy the schedule was completed to perfection. No incidents, no complains, happy faces and it was time for the ocean to sing the rest of the night. Here you can find some info related to the Costa Rica Blues Festival and the bands. Also there are links up for the Costa Rica Sailing Center and for the Abriendo Mentes foundation.