Two phenomena, other than genre, influence whether or not I'll attend a music gig. The first and least interesting is the availability of money. The second is an anecdote I heard about Jimi Hendrix: He complained that fans wanted to hear the tunes from his albums, whereas he felt that a recording signifies the end of the artistic process.
Though I enjoy shouting Thom Yorke's lyrics back at him just as much as the next guy or girl, I can imagine no greater musical experience than first encountering a band or a song that resonates with (or broadens/alters/destroys) my tastes. The internet provides ample occasion for discovery, of course, but one that often leaves me feeling disembodied, even if I'm not multitasking.
I don't think I need to advocate for live music, but after spending a week covering the SxSF Transit Music Festival, I am going to suggest that Santa Fe music lovers make more of an effort to check out bands they haven't heard of, local and touring acts alike. The crowds at Sol Santa Fe Stage & Grill, where the festival has staked down, have been good, but they could be better.
Here's an excerpt from my notes on the Gardens & Villa show on March 6: "If Beirut can fill the Santa Fe Community Convention Center—a venue that caps at 1,800 people—then more than 80 people should be at this show. Even factoring in that Beirut has hit critical mass—the point at which people start listening/following without even knowing why—and that bandleader Zach Condon is from the area, the band's success in Santa Fe suggests a diverse, adventurous pool of music listeners."
But where were they during the first week of SxSF?
Two disclaimers: First, I didn't attend Don Carlos and the Dubvison Band because, after 14-some years in ski towns, I'm physically repulsed by reggae that isn't Jimmy Cliff or Bob Marley. I'm sorry, but I also empathize with readers/music fans—like SFR music writer Alex De Vore, for example—who just don't care for the wide swath of emo/noise/beach/industrial/synth/pop/psych music we now categorize as indie. Second, I understand that Santa Fe doesn't have the cost-risk benefit: no CBGB (RIP) or a Casbah (San Diego) where four new acts play back-to-back on multiple stages, anchored by two newish headliners, all for $5-$8. At least one band, or the conversation at the bar about how much the bands suck, is worth the door charge.
In Santa Fe, the equation is similar, but spread out over multiple nights. You have to be willing to take a risk and spend a little money. If I've come across a time worth throwing the dice—in six months as a resident—then I have SxSF to thank. Saul Williams' performance was so elevating that it can hardly be contained by the term "music"; Gardens & Villa gave me a lot to think about; Ivan & Alyosha would be better at an outdoor venue; local act The Grannia Griffith Story could have joined the headliner at South by Southwest; Crystal Antlers was forgettable; and I look forward to watching Sleepy Sun develop. La Sera and Deerhoof played March 12 and 13, after deadline— otherwise, I'd have more to say about these bands whose albums, though not top 10-ers, have been in my cycle over the last year.
The next big shows are very different: a local punk/metal/core show with These Charming Cobras, CassoVita and Venus Bogardus on Friday, March 16; The Velvet Teen with As In We on Tuesday, March 20; and Good Ole War with Belle Brigade on Wednesday, March 21. As I'm running out of words, I'll describe these shows respectively (and reductively) as head-banging, emo/psych-dancey and Avett-Brothers-sing-a-long.
I might also suggest Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk on Saturday, March 17, but N'awlins funk seems to do well wherever it goes; people know what to expect.
Do yourself a favor, though, and check out a new band or a new sound. You might be disappointed, but you might also have a transformative experience. Money exists to provide you with this chance.
SxSF Transit Music Festival, various times and prices, southbysantafe.com
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