It was a pretty damn good year for music in this town. From the old faces of Caguama coming back to rock the Cowgirl on a Tuesday night to a great series of shows at CSF to the hip new underground scene that popped up on Second Street and off Airport Road, there was no reason to whine about a lack of anything to do. But, three things stood out this year that, for me, defined music in Santa Fe.
Punk Rock to the X-treme
Chances are, if you weren’t at the X show at Santa Fe Brewing Company on June 6, you don’t like music or leaving your house. The legendary LA punk band brought out familiar faces from every aspect of Santa Fe’s music scene. It seemed like you couldn’t turn around without running into someone you hadn’t seen in months. The show also brought out music fans who I, at least, had never seen before. But these folks were the real deal, punk rockers from back in the day.
Once X took the stage, the old punk rock dudes with beer-gut-stretched vintage band T-shirts were forgotten. This is a band that got its start more than 30 years ago, yet hasn’t slowed down at all.
Aside from the kick-ass, ear-ringing music, what made the show was guitarist Billy Zoom. His wide-eyed expression and crazed smile never wavered. While he ripped away at his guitar, he took the opportunity to make eyes at every woman in the first 10 rows, and leaned in to give kisses to as many of us as possible. Ducking away from a Zoom kiss was way more dangerous than navigating the mosh pit that was just a few rows back.
A Haunting Debut
It’s kind of cheating, because I listen to a lot of music in my car and on vinyl, but the play count on my iTunes confirms that the album I’ve played the most just so happens to be one that came out right here in Santa Fe. And anyone who has talked music with me for more than 15 minutes has heard me gush. So, for the last time, I promise, let me shout from the rooftops: If you don’t have a copy of The Apple Miner Colony’s The Heat Haunted Fever, go get one right now. It really is one of those albums in which there’s something for everyone. With cello, banjo and saxophone, the folk orchestra takes the typical heartbroken, singer-songwriter, Iron & Wine kind of thing and adds symphonic layers that seep into the spirit.
The album, which was recorded and mixed at the College of Santa Fe (where the band was formed approximately two years ago), fits perfectly into the current indie scene where artists such as Bon Iver and Conor Oberst reach into their souls to expose themselves the way Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake did years ago. The Apple Miner Colony’s band leader, Cole Wilson, manages, through his lyrics and command of the band, to tap equally into the joyful and miserable sides of the emotional spectrum.
Songs such as “Being Human Being” pull the listener into a feeling of togetherness that is just steps away from being cheesy but avoids this fate with a melancholy understanding of what it means to be part of the oneness of it all. As the song comes to its peak, the chorus splits in two, one half sings, “Home, you are my home, home is wherever you are,” while the other sings, “We are being human, being human beings.” Meanwhile, Wilson fills in the foreground with a chorus about joining together with courage to take on any obstacle. This swell of vocalization envelops the listener in an understanding embrace.
Conversely, the title track embodies theemptiness that we often feel with a delicate understanding. To hear the words, “Ain’t nothin’ can be done about it, we’re going down this road alone,” sung as a harmony, juxtaposes that aloneness with the truth that, no matter how down-and-out, one can never truly be alone in the world.
Wilson’s lyrics are simple, as is the instrumentation, but The Heat Haunted Fever gets its charm from its lack of pretension. It’s an album that challenges listeners to connect with themselves emotionally, rather than intellectually, and simultaneously comforts anyone willing to give themselves over.
Don’t Let Go
In mid-June, what was supposed to be an art show and concert at High Mayhem became, instead, one of the most bittersweet moments of the year. The space was
(see page 31), but the group managed one last art show.
Alex Neville’s pieces hung in the gallery and the unadvertised show went on as planned, with a small community stopping by. Evening turned to night, and more and more people trickled out, saying goodbye to a space that had been on the cultural map for eight years.
As the night got colder, a few of the artists of High Mayhem headed into the performance space and sat in a circle, talking about anything but this being the end. It seemed unbearable for the people who worked so hard to make this space a part of the Santa Fe community to acknowledge that High Mayhem’s physical home would be gone—a place in which they had spent so much time and that had changed them so much. As bottles of bourbon and
tequila were passed around the group and ghost stories came to a close, it was noted that there were only eight people in that circle—the maximum number that, according to the fire department, were allowed in the building.
Though I first showed up to a High Mayhem show as a shy graduate student and my only involvement was to include a small knitted piece in last year’s holiday art show, it was a place where I always felt welcomed, even as an observer. Though the organization lives on, the little Lena Street house that used to be the physical embodiment of High Mayhem will certainly be missed.