CLUB REVIEW : Good Blues for the Buck at the Hospitable Mint

Although the blues is rapidly becoming a commodity around town, purists will tell you that the Mint's soul is perfectly intact.

The little club, which is located in a gritty stretch of Pico Boulevard, is not only a truly hospitable place, but it also continuously offers some of the best blues for your buck.

Performers and customers alike credit owner Jed Ojeda for setting the Mint's standard for quality music without pretentiousness. Ojeda took over the 85-capacity club (in business since 1937) nearly five years ago and built it into a popular blues haven. The Mint was nearly forced to close its doors when business fell off after the '92 riots, but Ojeda managed to weather the period without compromising his format. When the club isn't showcasing such acts as Robben Ford and Jimmy Witherspoon or New Orleans' famed Leo Nocentelli and Ziggy Modeliste, its small stage features some of L.A.'s most talented singer-songwriters. Ben Harper and Bill Bonk are two of the most inspired Mint performers from this category.

The club's sound system is basic, which suits the music just fine. And, if you haven't already visited, you may want to check it out before Ojeda expands the room slightly next year--so on really packed evenings "customers can breathe." The sweaty closeness on such nights is currently part of the fun.

* The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd. All ages, Mon.-Sat., 21 and over on Sun. Cover varies. (213) 937-9630.

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