Juan Demarco and Rocío Iturralde singing emotionally at the Open Blues Nights. Picture courtesy of the producers.

Up until a few years ago, if you were a musician in Buenos Aires and liked playing folk music, your options were limited. Despite the fact that Argentine folklore and tango has always had a spot during late nights at cultural centers, North American folk hasn’t had the same luck. That is, until May 2014, when Federico Petro and Martín Grossman came in the picture.

“Our idea was to call on musicians who liked folk music through social networks and encourage them to send us videos or recordings of them singing”, Federico Petro told The Bubble. “We decided to curate each night’s event to make sure the music would always be good, with honest and emotional performances, and an aesthetic just like we had imagined it.”

It worked, and a network of insanely talented musicians was born. Two years after Open Folk began, two more cycles joined the family, Open Blues Nights and Estación Nueva Orleans. The first two share the same leitmotiv: twelve amazing musicians, three songs each, a captivated audience. All free, all in El Universal in Palermo (Pasaje Soria 4940), all with fantastic musicians and an atmosphere just like Petro and Grossman worked for. So behold: the Open Folk schedule, running every week of the year just for you.

Open Folk

The first of the bunch, Open Folk has been taking place every Tuesday for two years now. “I think folk is a genre that speaks to everyone”, said Petro. “Going back to wooden instruments and warm places where there’s an intimacy between the audience and the musicians creates a very particular energy.”

Ever since its birth in 2014, a sort of fixed group of musicians has formed thanks to the event. This bunch has grown and perfected their style precisely in the stage at El Universal, and continue to play every Tuesday aside from their album presentations and concerts.

One of the veterans at Open Folk is Juan Demarco, who has recorded an album of his own, Antes de este río. “I’ve played in many different places, but at Open Folk, I found a scene I feel very comfortable in”, said Demarco. “There’s a sort of brotherhood among musicians, where we participate and collaborate in each other’s songs. It’s very common to see someone backstage practising a song and have someone else come up to them and say ‘hey, wanna join me in the guitar?’, and just go on stage like that.”

Demarco raved about the audience, who he said has given him “magical moments of absolute silence during my songs, which isn’t something that happens everywhere.” His biggest inspiration today are none other than the musicians he shares a stage with every week, such as Karina Vismara, Tomás Amante, Dolores Cobach and many more.

Karina Vismara feels the same way. She says that what inspires her the most is listening to original live music played by her friends or other emerging artists, and that inspiration has worked. Vismara has recently toured around the US with her record Casa del Viento, which is delightfully reminiscent to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, who are, incidentally, two of her favorite artists. “The record is pretty minimalist”, she told The Bubble. “I thought it was important to record something authentic and representative of what I do.”

When: Tuesdays at 8.30pm, with a guest band opening the show.

Open Blues Nights

If folk isn’t your thing or if you’re left wanting more, Wednesdays are Open Blues Nights, where the predominant genres are, of course, blues, soul and R&B. Much like in Open Folk, a group of recurring musicians began to form, and a huge figure in it is Emily Kate Boyd. Coming all the way from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Boyd will make you feel like you’re drinking lemonade on an Appalachian porch. In any case, she is one of the many artists who will delight you with their authentic and piercing sound.

“I believe in Open Folk and Open Blues”, Boyd said. “It’s a great way for aspiring artists to work up their chops and share new songs. It’s where I always find a friend. It’s a community built on roots music. There are so many artists that inspire me who are living in South America now. Many of them sing every Wednesday night at Open Blues. You need to see them all before the wind blows or their lights flicker.”

When: Wednesdays at 8.30pm, with a guest band opening the show.

Estación Nueva Orleans

Estación Nueva Orleans is somewhat different from the other two. Although it also takes place once a week at El Universal, there aren’t different musicians every Thursday. A fixed band, called SatchMore and born as a tribute to Louis Armstrong, plays their songs alongside guest artists.

The cycle began about three months ago, and the band plays swing, dixieland along with all kinds of blues music. It is made up of Fabio Zurita in the piano and composing, Marcelo Gallo in the trumpet and trombone, Sebastián Casaccio in the double bass and Walter Wainstein as the singer. Guests vary every Thursday, and usually propose new and surprising things to spice the concerts up a bit.

SatchMore jazzing it up at El Universal.
SatchMore jazzing it up at El Universal. Picture courtesy of the producers.

“There’s something very peculiar about this cycle,” said Wainstein. “Firstly, we set out to play a different show every week, which means preparing different songs constantly. We continue to add new standards from every time period in every show, and that is a way of testing ourselves every Thursday. Besides, the guest artists always revolutionize each presentation by defying us to play a special version of classic tunes.” So now you know: if you want to feel like you’re in a Woody Allen movie, this is the place to be.

When: Thursdays at 8.30pm, with SatchMore and guest artists playing every week.

Open Folk Festival

And as if all this music wasn’t enough, there’s an Open Folk Festival this Saturday 29th at Plaza Seeber (Av. Sarmiento and Av. Libertador) in Palermo, where eighteen artists will be playing for twelve hours in an all-day-long ordeal that is bound to satisfy your thirst for folk music. After a successful festival in September last year, with more than three thousand attendees, Open Folk is going out into the fresh air again with support from the United States Embassy, the Buenos Aires Government and El Universal. The festival is free.