Every September, Lugano's typically quiet piazzas echo for three nights with the joyfully raucous sounds of blues, gospel, and honky-tonk music.
Blues to Bop is an all too well-kept secret and, in this author’s humble opinion, one of the best annual music events in Switzerland. (I’m looking at you, Montreux.) The premise is simple: the festival hosts artists from a wide range of sub-genres - from blues to bop, toe-tapping boogie-woogie, head-banging electric blues, hand-waving gospel anthems, and slow-dancing sax solos...
They've got it all at Blues to Bop in Lugano.
It is one of the only festivals in all of Europe dedicated to these genres. The artists come from all over the USA and Europe. A few mainstays like boogie-woogie piano star David Keys return nearly every year. Past musicians have included Popa Chubby, a hard rocking blues guitar god. Or Roy Roberts who plays soulful, expressive R’n’B.
Every night, the artists take turns playing around the city on four different stages set in each of the squares. The events culminate in a Saturday night extravaganza on the main stage in Piazza Riforma. The atmosphere varies by stage; some have a quietly attentive audience who are carefully watching master musicians play their music. Others have a party atmosphere full of dancing, clapping, and singing along.
All of these genres are challenging to play and it is a real pleasure to watch these old masters and young re-inventors of genres that do not typically get airtime. It is definitely refreshing to see real instruments in a world of electronic music.
Like to dance? Nothing gets the feet tapping like honky-tonk! And the best place to dance all night long is right in front of the main stage in Piazza Riforma.
Why I love Blues to Bop
Between the incredible music, the beautiful setting and the invested audience, Blues to Bop is genuinely my favorite music event of the year. It is a perfect way to dance the summer away. The atmosphere is congenial and laid back; you can even chat with the artists after their sets! There is no pretension or pressure here, just four nights of great music, a pleasant, engaged audience, and a stunning venue.
It's a rollicking good time, and the best part - it’s free!
The festival runs from August 29 through September 1 in Lugano and nearby Morcote. But if you can only come for one day, then Saturday night is the one to go for. That night, expect a multi-artist freestyle jam session on the main stage in Piazza Riforma! It is a truly spectacular show for anyone who loves these genres.
His expat family has now lived in the Basel area for many years, so it’s safe to say his heart belongs in Switzerland.
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