The 12th annual Thirsty Ear Festival is sure to go down in "dude, you should have been there!" history. That's in part due to some pretty big changes—they're all good, I swear.

First, you'll be psyched to learn this year's fest ditches Eaves Movie Ranch and moves to venues closer to home: Corazón, the Lensic Performing Arts Center and Sol Santa Fe Stage & Grill. It's about damn time! Eaves fit the tone of the festival pretty well, but the problems outweighed the benefits. Yes, Westerns are totally awesome and I love a historical movie set as much as the next guy, but I love not driving a million miles out of town to have dirt fly into my mouth even more. High attendance and the cruel, cruel sun at past Thirsty Ears meant heatstroke was a real concern. What's worse, you weren't even allowed to smoke at the outside venue.

"We were always at the mercy of the weather when it came to the festival being held [at Eaves]," Michael Koster, vice president of Southwest Roots Music, which puts on Thirsty Ear, says. "It was sometimes hard for people to endure the heat, and we were noticing the crowds getting smaller. I think moving the festival will give us a chance to draw more people and make things better all around."

The festival also features a more varied lineup. Traditionally, Southwest Roots Music booked performers who mostly fell within the country, Americana and blues genres. This year, however, acts such as Ohio-based indie-rock act Times New Viking, rock (-ish) singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, Albuquerque indie-pop quartet Cherry Tempo and Arizona indie-folk/country band Calexico broaden the fare.

"The move to in-town venues has allowed us to expand outwardly and musically," Koster tells SFR.

He says that utilizing promoters such as Tim Franke, has helped.

"Instead of being 'The Mike Koster Show,' there's more of a community feel," Koster says.

Calexico and Times New Viking are both excellent reasons to check out Thirsty Ear. Formed in the mid-'90s, Calexico skyrocketed to fame thanks to 2005's In the Reins, an EP produced with indie-folk titan Iron & Wine. Calexico pays homage to the American Southwest and Mexico with the familiar sounds of, indie-rock, multi-instrumentalism and Latin rhythms. English and Spanish vocals create a one-of-a-kind style that has earned Calexico prime spots on tours with big-name bands such as Pavement and Arcade Fire.

Having drawn comparison to legendary lo-fi indie act Guided by Voices, trio Times New Viking has the guy/girl indie thing down. Vocalists Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy have great chemistry that recalls pop duo Quasi in its simple yet catchy melodies and harmonies. On seminal indie label Merge, the trio just released Dancer Equired, featuring a noise-pop aesthetic similar to bands like No Age. Times New Viking continues to grow, both in its sound and fan base.
The final day of Thirsty Ear is a locals-only affair.

According to Koster, "There are just so many world-class musicians that call Santa Fe home that we wanted to make sure these bands had a whole day dedicated to their great music."

From the high-energy zydeco of Felix y los Gatos to the quirky Americana of singer-songwriter Joe West, there’s something for even the most discerning music lover. Add an African drumming workshop for kids, and you’ve got the perfect family-
oriented end to a well-planned, exciting and evolving festival.

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