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Anson Stevens-Bollen

AHA Festival road map

September 14, 2016, 12:00 am

In the early days of the After Hours Alliance (AHA), the collective of artists, promoters, musicians and all-around do-gooders had a grand vision that was, at the time, hard to realize. Flash-forward to today, and the annual AHA Festival of Progressive Arts (which begins its sixth iteration this Friday) has grown into a three-day, multi-location arts and music powerhouse looked forward to by thousands. This year is a real doozy, too, with dozens of performances, major installations and, perhaps most importantly, a keen eye for inclusivity across Santa Fe.

Day 1: XIXA with Thieves & Gypsys


 FRIDAY: Sept. 16, 8:30 pm, $10-$12

“In bridging the gap between the dry haunt of psychedelic desert rock and the vibrant rhythms of cumbia, XIXA may have the quintessential southwestern sound,” blogger Jonny Leather says. Leather served on the musical selection panel for this year’s event and, he says, XIXA was his first choice for the kickoff night headliner. “I felt like they would be a great fit with AHA’s goal of linking other small music scenes to Santa Fe’s,” he says. “The challenge is convincing people that these under-the-radar bands are worth their time, and while the concept of psychedelic cumbia is a great selling point, namedropping members’ affiliations with Calexico and Giant Sand definitely grabs people’s attention.”

The opening event operates in conjunction with music blog (operated by writer Jonny Leather, who contributed to our annual music issue this year) and takes over the former El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe (555 Camino de la Familia, 992-0591) Local indie-rock trio Thieves & Gypsys opens the night with their brand of Strokes-esque rock, and one of the most exciting bands to come through Santa Fe this year closes out the night. Tucson’s XIXA pays homage to the rich world of psychedelic Mexican garage rock bands with their desert rock/Latin cumbia fusion. XIXA culls heavily from their shared culture and heritage and reaches across generational and genre lines for a style all at once familiar and engrossing yet innovative and challenging. I’m reminded of the quieter songs of At the Drive In or lesser-known punk acts such as Los Saicos, with a ’60s-ish Donovan feel and tonally fascinating guitar work. XIXA’s pedigree includes members who’ve worked with Calexico, Giant Sand and Bob Dylan, so this is exactly the kind of band AHA should be courting and bringing to town. Well done.

Day 2: The Art of the Machine


SATURDAY: Sept. 17, 4-10 pm, suggested donation

“It’s like an interactive, living Tarot deck with 13 doors; choose a door, choose your fortune,” photographer/co-creator of the gargantuan “Wheel of Fortune” installation, Anne Staveley, tells SFR. “It represents the 22 arcana of the Tarot, the archetypes of being a human being … It really feels alive.” Staveley co-created the “Wheel of Fortune” with photographer and former Santa Fean Jill Sutherland for Burning Man, and Saturday’s Art of the Machine will be its first deployment in Santa Fe. “We get such a diverse range of reaction,” says Sutherland. “We’ve seen people laugh, cry, freak out and fall in love; it’s been a risk and a gamble, but anytime we go out there and take that risk, there has been great reward.”

AHA shifts its location to the parking lot of the former Club Alegria (2797 Agua Fria St.) and its focus to the visual arts with two massive sculptures, an arts truck from local creator SCUBA, a performance from circus/acrobatic troupe Wise Fool and more. Artist Christian Ristow’s impressive mechanical bird sculpture, “Fledgling,” will be there and allows a single user to operate its pedals, which make its wings move. Artists Anne Staveley and Jill Sutherland’s “Wheel of Fortune” makes its Santa Fe debut as well. A massive circle of steel and doors based on the Tarot, there’s no telling what will be revealed behind each entrance, but even if you aren’t a hippie, you’ll discover your fortune. Given its size and its utilization of performers, it’ll probably be something pretty breathtaking, too. DJ Raashan Ahmand provides the dance jams and there will be food trucks aplenty.

Day 3: Progressive Arts Fair


SUNDAY: Sept. 18, 1-8 pm, free

“I’m excited for Mandy Messina, who is this South African artist living in Oklahoma who is doing this incredible project on identification where she will print these ID cards from different realties. [It’s] almost like, ‘What if we weren’t colonized, how would we identify?’” AHA’s visual arts director Ginger Dunnill says. “Or there’s this artist Hernan Gomez who does these steel sculptures that are, like, impressions of power lines; he never really felt aligned with the arts in Santa Fe … I really think that AHA is something incredibly unique for Santa Fe and it allows artists to show their work without being stuffed into a box.”

This is the big one, folks. The day that AHA brings the most to the table. The entire Railyard Plaza becomes a living, breathing arts explosion with well over two dozen artist booths, performance arts galore, two stages crammed with local and touring musicians and much more. Local post-rockers Future Scars perform alongside High Mayhem’s bizarre cello-heavy act, The Uninvited Guest and synth-pop genius Flamingo Pink, whose Ghosts in the Ground was named one of SFR’s albums of the year this year. Washington DC pop/soul vocalist Be Steadwell is slated to play as well as Denver synth-rock trio Rubedo, future-jazz soloist Angelo Harmsworth and many others. Oh, and it’s free. When stacked against other similar Santa Fe events, AHA is practically untouchable, one of the few creations that seems to cater not just to the elderly or to children, but to those who have so often felt underserved in this community. This is the grand vision dreamed up those six years ago, so be there to support—it’s a no-brainer.

*Editor's note: this story was updated to reflect a venue change for the Friday night kickoff show


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