The girlfriend and I had just enjoyed a performance from piano-man David Geist at Pranzo when we stumbled across Creative Santa Fe's FantaSe Domefest. Though previously aware of the event, we had somehow forgotten, so it was a pretty wonderful and serendipitous moment. And it was there, amid the surreal domes projecting fantastic video art, that we heard the opening band.
"This can't be local," she said.
"I know," I responded. "It's just a little too good."
But it was local.
Like a magical combination between The Strokes, The White Stripes and T Rex, Thieves & Gypsys had commanded the attention of the entire skate park, and the beautiful domes were suddenly thrust into the role of second fiddle—this band was amazing. Guitarist/singer/songwriter Jared Garcia's hands effortlessly danced across the fret board in a reverb-heavy display of indie shredding the likes of which Santa Fe usually never sees. Bassist Aaron Jones ba-doomed his way through non-stop complex yet rhythmically solid bass lines, and drummer Adam Cook provided an impressive backbone that both maintained a rocksteady beat and yet crammed so many fills and flourishes, it was hard to believe he only owns two hands. Is phenomenal too strong a word? Nope.
So why isn't this whole town losing its shit over Thieves & Gypsys? Easy: They aren't in your face. Many super-smart people within the Santa Fe music scene—myself included—have told locals they should tour, but T&G already knows this. Y'see, kids, it's all well and good to operate within your relatively small hometown full of your family and friends and then assume you're the greatest of all time, but does this stacked-deck existence truly provide a realistic view of your quantifiable popularity? The short answer is no, and this trio knows that.
In fact, these guys can't be seen performing in Santa Fe very often at all and, semi-disappointing as this may be, it is not only due to their willingness to hit the road (the boys just returned from a 41-date cross-country tour), but their conscious choice to not overplay.
"As much as people don't want to admit it, Santa Fe is a tough town for musicians; people think and act more slowly here, which isn't bad, but very different compared to Los Angeles or Austin where things are more competitive," Garcia says. "You can get down on yourself when you feel people aren't coming to local shows, but when you're on the road and see the hospitality and excitement and you're evolving as a band…we came back a different group, and I came back with a new perspective."
Certainly many of us have T&G on our radars, but the release of their most recent record, Break, coupled with the tightness that long tours can foster, the trio has entered a new realm of maturity and professionalism that sets them apart from just about any local band currently operating (just about…nobody freak). This is all the more surprising when we consider that, at 23, Garcia has only been earnest about musicianship for about 5 years.
"I didn't start seriously playing until I dropped out of college at 18," he says. "I'd picked up the guitar here and there, but it was then I decided this was something I actually really wanted to do."
Even within such a short time, T&G have made such impressive leaps and bounds that to think of the band as the same entity as they were in their early days is a major mistake. Even Garcia admits this.
"I worry that people will think we sound the same as when we first started out, but I consider [Jones and Cook] family now, and that closeness and openness brings an change in sound that I think can only come from developing these personal relationships," he says. "Back then, my brother said to me, 'You see one of your songs; you've seen them all,' and that was really great advice…I really took the time to write after that."
Look, it's simple, really: Thieves & Gypsys is a killer band and deserves lots of attention. Between local shows, regional shows and an opening slot for the upcoming burning of Zozobra, you'll have lots of chances. So, y'know—do that.
Thieves & Gypsys
8 pm Tues., May 27. Free.
O'Shaughnessy Performance Space,
1600 St. Michael's Drive