If it’s Tuesday, it’s live music night at the Gilded Iguana, and that’s been true since 2001, ten years ago. Back then, right back at the turn of the millennium, Nosara was sleepy and undiscovered. “People were starving for live music,” remembers Steve Coan, who with fellow musician Joe Davis can be considered the “Founding Fathers” of the local music scene.
Coan, who had recently chosen Nosara as his new home after an aviation career in Florida, dusted off his guitar chops and his thin-body Ovation and met fellow picker David Cox from California, who played a backpacker guitar and knew a roster of songs.
The original Tuesday night at the Gilded Iguana drew what was then considered a huge, and appreciative crowd. “Nobody could hear us, but everybody had a good time,” Coan recounts.
“Jungle Joe” Davis, came to Nosara the same year, after a career in water management in Florida. He, too, found the climate nourishing to his latent musicianship and helped anchor the Tuesday night music venue, adding a PA system as well. While Cox left Nosara, the following season brought a talented professional singer and guitar player, DeBlois Milledge, from Florida. Milledge helped develop the folk/roots sound.
The professionalism took another leap forward in 2004 with the arrival of Bill MacPherson, a gigging and recording guitarist from Los Angeles and a Berklee Music graduate. MacPherson started with jazz guitar shows at Harbor Reef Hotel, but soon added his yeast to the musical fermentation brewing at the Iguana. That was enough to get resident surfer John Victor to rescue his drum kit from storage and update his licks from his days in a college jazz band. With the availability of a good drummer, MacPherson turned to bass and Coan played lead guitar. “Drum and bass are a powerful and complementary combination,” said Victor, who moved here eight years ago out of school, after falling in love with surfing, spear fishing and, most of all, the local people.
Davis added rhythm guitar and percussion and, with a succession of singers, The Medicine Show Band picked up the Tuesday showcase and began playing other venues such as Kaya Sol (then Blewdogs) and Casa Tucan.
With Coan and Davis continuing to develop their multi-instrumental skills, the Medicine Show attracted a string of talented singers and rocked the local crowds until 2009. While the Medicine Show lineup was discontinued after MacPherson left the area, other musical collaborations continued, including Kokopelli, featuring singer Jason Wilcox, Chorotega, featuring Argentine guitarist Juan Peregrino, and the current lineup, the Head High Band, with vocalist Darrin English. English, who previously had a stint as vocalist for The Medicine Show, drove here from Texas five years ago with a truck full of DJ equipment and brings a soulful voice to classic rock standards.
Guitarist Dan Ray, another Medicine Show alumnus, is returning to Nosara in May and will join the Head High lineup, adding some new tunes including covers of Santana and the Allman Brothers. Locals may also remember Ray and Coan as GuiTARZAN.
Even though another ‘high season’ has drawn to a close, it no longer means that the music will fall silent. Nosara has enough year-round population to keep the gigs coming for the seminal musicians who provide the backbone of the local scene.
Fertile Ground for New Musicians
With a growing variety of good venues and seven nights a week to party, Nosara has offered fertile ground for many resident and vacationing musicians, and hungry audiences.
Musician and artist Paul DeCosta arrived here three years ago from London, “for a rest,” and immediately settled in with the vibe. He has performed his original “spooky torch songs” solo, and has sat in with various lineups, while currently forming a new band that is sure to add an exciting new dimension to the scene here. As the house DJ at Bar La Banana, he reads his audience to provide progressive club music from his palette. He plays includes electronica, trip hop, lounge, drum & base and some local favorites.
New on the scene this year is singer-songwriter Cristi Massey, who performs solo or with a variety of collaborators. Often playing lead guitar with her at the just-closed Rising Sun restaurant, Ben Tyson also played with other artists at the restaurant, which he co-managed with his partner Susan Prior. Describing the relatively small music community here, Tyson said “There’s plenty of opportunity to play. I think we need more musicians here. It’s important and nice to have something different.”
Jen Stone, a jewelry maker, brings her guitar and song craft to a variety of events, such as art exhibits and restaurant Il Basilico. Some of the past season’s best shows included Hernan Olalla, an Argentine keyboardist and bass player and electrifying vocal performer. He appeared with MacPherson and others such as visiting jazz vocalist Laura Martier from North Carolina.