I wasn't looking for a show to review, or to even leave my house. It was Sunday and I had successfully managed to take a nap, do my laundry and vacuum my bedroom all in one day—not bad! Eventually, though, cabin fever set in. I found myself champing at the bit to venture into the world and, for the first time in a while, drink some beers. My travels were cold and I was moments away from throwing in the towel when I stopped by Cowgirl and, by chance, caught a band I've been meaning to see for a while.
Within moments of walking in the door, a familiar face appeared and addressed me: "You know this band? Bus Tapes? You'd better be staying for this shit."
Local bassist Case Tanner has been around for as long as I can remember. Longer, even. Tanner is many things to many people: nice guy, not-so-nice guy, weirdo, etc. But, at the end of the day, he is definitely this: a stellar bass player. Tanner adds a jazzy, mathy twist to anything he works on, whether it's The Reincarnated Abortions, his album-a-week endeavor from a few years back, Sleep Therapy or any of the numerous projects with which he's been involved.
"Alright, Tanner," I thought. "We'll just see how this goes."
I've received a lot of press releases that call the Bus Tapes everything from folk to blues to reggae, so I wasn't sure what I'd hear. Truthfully, I didn't expect much more than another bar band.
The Bus Tapes appeared to be returning from a break. Singer and guitarist Heather Tanner (no relation to Case) stood alone strumming a vintage '50s Gibson guitar (jealous) and quietly singing a folky-bluesy number. I strained to hear the beautiful melody over the asshats who insisted on drunkenly yelling. As she neared the end of the song, the other members of the band, keyboardist Mud Douglas, sit-in drummer Bjorn Hamre and Case Tanner himself, began to slowly join her onstage.
Tanner (the singer) then told a story about attending science camp in the early '90s and repeatedly hearing TLC's "Waterfalls" on the radio—then the band delved into a cover of said song. This was not just adorable, it also disarmed the audience and made Tanner seem less like an unapproachable musician type and more like a friendly, nerdy type to whom we could relate.
As for the rest of the band, Douglas was one enthusiastic mofo. He incorporated soul-jazz organist Jimmy McGriff-esque keys into a neo-folk style, which fleshed out the songs and added depth. Each solo he played prompted a round of applause from the audience and a barely visible smile to flicker across his face.
Hamre has been a presence on the Santa Fe scene for years, playing with groups like Standing Wave, Amazing Larry and Manzanares. And he's no slouch on the drums. Intricate fills crept into almost every song, leaving me nearly breathless and looking around to see if everyone else had just heard that.
"We're not the best band in the world," Tanner (the singer) later tells me. "But we have fun…people like to watch us goof around."
I left Cowgirl with a demo album in hand (an official debut release is on the way) and a hankering to see the Bus Tapes again, particularly in a more lively setting. Winter Sundays don't make for the best shows, but I have a feeling the Bus Tapes will be around for years to come. I doubt it will be a problem to catch them again. And again.
The Bus Tapes
5 pm, Friday, Dec. 4
Second Street Brewery
1814 Second St.
8 pmSunday, Dec. 13
319 S. Guadalupe St.