By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – With a characteristic zeal for life and moving to a samba beat, it’s a wonder why Rio has never spawned a burgeoning blues scene. As a contemporary cosmopolitan melting pot, the raw sounds and reflective lyrics have a place on the city’s musical landscape in the form of Shenanigan’s weekly blues night.
For the last four years, Wednesday nights at Shenanigans have played host to resident band Cristiano Crochemore Blues Trio. Hailing from Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul, lead singer and guitarist Cristiano Crochemore was drawn to the blues at an early age; “I started playing guitar at age eleven and have always played blues. Porto Alegre has a stronger rock and blues scene and my parents exposed me to artists like Johnny White, BB King and Eric Clapton.”
With its origins in the African-American communities of the American deep South, the blues is so-called because of the state of melancholy traditionally expressed in the lyrics. However, to think of the blues as merely depressive is a limited view of a rich and diverse musical form. “The blues is essentially only three chords, so it leaves a lot of room for interpretation,” explains Crochemore.
The Cristiano Crochemore Blues Trio definitely swings in the direction of more lively blues. Performing one tune behind the other on Shenanigan’s cozy stage area, the trio play a range of covers from artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon and Robert Cray in a distinctly upbeat style.
The sound is driven by crisp drums that bounce rather than shuffle and anchored by a fulsome blues bassline. On top of this Crochemore plays guitar with light virtuosity and sings with a soft voice that almost threatens to break into a gravelly rasp.
The melodious blues style of the group fits well with the atmosphere at Shenanigan’s. The popular Ipanema bar bustles with activity and although Irish by theme, can also feel something like a Polish-American whiskey bar with its wood paneling, retro wall fittings, and pool tables.
It´s a comfortable and appropriate place for the blues night, which is a first for the city. “We decided to start the night for the simple reason that there wasn’t a regular blues night in Rio” says Shenanigan’s owner John Monus, who comes from the home of the blues New Orleans, Louisiana. The uniqueness of the event is echoed by Crochemore,’This is the only space in Rio that’s had a regular blues night for the last three years. It’s really rare. It’s a great place and a great night.”
Both John and co-owner Michael Taylor are blues fans, however the night is not about personal taste so much as the Shenanigan’s commitment to offering a range of entertainment. “We offer a variety of international beers, show a variety of sports and play a variety of music” says John. The blues night forms part of Shenanigan’s packed entertainment agenda with live music from Tuesday to Sunday nights.
For more details of what’s on, see the Nightlife Guide.