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Happy July Porkth

Stepping up to this grill is an exercise in meat, lovin’ and meat-lovin’

Food WritingWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Rob DeWalt

Over the Father’s Day weekend, the taller half and I ventured out to Glorieta for an outdoor barbecue to celebrate the occasion with my husband’s stepfather and some of our close and extended family. It was—as it always is when a crowd gathers at the in-laws’ compound—a frenetic and colorful meditation on grill-related gustatory excess.

The grills and smokers were fired up in the spirit of unity, family and friendship. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but when it does, we all come together in amazing ways. Besides being blessed with family and friends who know their way around the kitchen, I am, on these forays to the “country,” in the company of some of the finest grillers and barbecue snobs Northern New Mexico has to offer. It is something we have in common, this obsession with outdoor cooking, and even though our ideologies may not always mesh when it comes to politics, religion and the indisputable fact that the New York Yankees are the best baseball team of all time, our hearts and bellies all seem to dovetail at the dining table.

With Fourth of July celebrations coming up, there’s a common compulsion to run out and buy a bunch of hot dogs, hamburger patties and starchy white buns to throw on the grill. And you know what? That’s a great way to celebrate the birth of our nation through the language of food, especially if you like standing over a hot grill while everyone else eats. It’s perhaps more familiar fare than what patriotic gents like John Adams ate to mark the holiday—unless you’ve always been a big fan of turtle soup and lamb’s testicles (which, frankly, are probably better for you than hot dogs anyway).

My father-in-law, whom I would describe as the Glorieta Pork Whisperer, has a better idea. He preps his grill to cook on slow-and-low heat, throws a roast beast upon it, closes the lid and walks away for a few hours, cold beer in-hand. His cooking method is certainly nothing new, but his Father’s Day preparation for pork loin is a bit…different.

Food this good takes patience, so plan to do a few things the day before cooking. The real tricks to pulling this recipe off without a hitch are to brine the pork first for 12 hours; have the grill preheated at cooking time to a pretty low temperature, around 275 degrees (use a grill thermometer); and set it to use indirect heat when cooking. If you’re using charcoal, burn the briquettes down until they’re almost gray and push them to one side of the grill bottom. Put a shallow metal drip tray on the other side of the grill bottom and fill halfway with water. Keep more briquettes on hand and feed the pile to keep the temperature up to that 250-275 mark. If using a gas grill, turn the gas on low over one grill section only and heat to the same target temperature.

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped, Sausage-Stuffed Pork Loin

  • 1 4- to 4 ½-pound pork loin, all fat removed
  • 3 links cooked kielbasa or other cooked sausage
  • 1 pound raw bacon (strips)
  • 1 gallon brine (see recipe below)
  • 3 tablespoons (roughly) barbecue dry rub (see recipe below)
  • apricot jam for glazing (optional)

Dry Rub

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • Stir together all ingredients until well combined.

Brine for Pork

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

Bring ingredients to a boil and cool to room temperature. Place the pork loin in a nonreactive container (a stainless steel pan or a large Ziploc bag works fine), cover with brine, seal container and let sit in refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight. For the same length of time, soak about 10 wooden toothpicks in water.

Slow-Cooked Pork Loin

With the grill preheated, remove pork from brine and pat dry. Using a sturdy metal skewer and working from both sides, create a hole down the center of the loin wide enough to stuff the sausage links into. Insert links into the loin (don’t worry if some hangs out the sides). Rub dry rub all over loin meat. Wrap the loin tightly with bacon strips, overlapping tips of the strips and securing with wet toothpicks on the loin top. Place the loin on indirect-heat portion of grill (on the grate over the pan of water in the charcoal grill, or over the unlit grate on the gas grill). Cover with foil. Now walk away. Don’t do anything. Or do something else. Cook the loin low to an internal temperature of 150 (up to 5 hours), keeping the grill temperature at around 275 degrees. Uncover the loin. If glazing, do so now. Continue cooking the loin to an internal temperature of 165. Remove the loin from grill, let rest on wire rack for 15 minutes, slice and serve.


7 Days

07.01.15

7 DaysWednesday, July 1, 2015 by SFR
1

The Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 in favor of marriage equality for all

Didn’t invest in Pottery Barn stock while you had a chance? Big mistake.

2

Saying it was “at odds” with the Constitution, among the nay voters was Justice Clarence Thomas, A black man married to a white woman

Because Loving v. Virginia.

3

Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Mexico since 2013

For once, we’re ahead of the curve!

4

Susana Martinez’ instant response clamored for “religious freedom”

Strike the above punchline.

5

Gov. says she’ll shift focus on growing the economy and improving schools

Which she’s totally knocked outta the park so far.

6

Texas pastor reneges on promise to set himself on fire

Thousands line outside grocery stores to return s’mores supplies.

7

Seriously, though, how amazing has this week been?

#LoveWins.


Well, They Seem Nice

Let’s all make new friends with 'The Overnight'

YayWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Jonathan Kiefer

Not yet settled in LA, young Seattle-transplant parents Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) optimistically embark on a pizza-party playdate with sunny Californians Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), who seem very friendly. Then very, very friendly. Their night together advances in a jumble of hang-ups and high hopes, with just enough booze, bong rips and body-image insecurities to go around. And before we know it, a coy indie sex comedy has fully disrobed, revealing—wait for it—a deep relationship drama. 

 

Pulling this off requires a good ear for how a phrase like “We’ve tried everything” could suggest enviable adventurousness or pitiable stagnation, depending on the degree of established intimacy. The good news here is that the establishment of intimacy, with all its confusions, frustrations and consolations, is just what interests writer-director Patrick Brice, who juices this minimal scenario with maximum efficiency. Brice understands the basic weirdness of getting to know people—how ambiguity can be tense, funny, frisky and touching, sometimes all at once.

 

It’s easy to see the attraction here for executive producer Mark Duplass, who in recent years has fortified his modest entertainment empire partly by shepherding young indie filmmakers with similar affinities. Though Brice’s voice comes through clearly, and all the performers make his material their own, The Overnight seems innately Duplassian for its resourceful simplicity and underlying sweetness. (Brice’s low-budget thriller Creep, which he and Duplass co-wrote and in which they co-star, also has just been released on demand.)

 

Reportedly, The Overnight only cost $150,000 to make. What an inspiration! Clearly, this thing didn’t need a lot of overhead. It’s mostly just four people (and their kids, who go to bed early) in and around a single house. Yes, there are a couple of quick scenes at a playground and in another house, and of course, there’s that one brief but notable excursion to a Thai massage parlor, but overall, the movie is very shrewdly self-contained. I’d be curious to see the line items in Brice’s budget, if only to satisfy a hunch that one of the movie’s most (relatively) significant expenditures was for a single element of art direction, namely—and this might be a mini-spoiler—the copious paintings of buttholes. Anyway, it’s nice when a sense of investment is palpable.

 

Characterized with tactfully exaggerated comic proportions, The Overnight also benefits from pitch-perfect casting: Each actor gets to shine. It’s fair to say this is Schwartzman like you’ve never seen him before. But really, it’s an ensemble affair, with all the boundary confusion that entails. Together, Brice’s cast has the right proportions of wit and feeling, and their shared escapade is funny and racy without ever trying too hard. Some viewers may consider this whole enterprise a tad too vanilla, but perhaps these highly evolved polyamory virtuosos can find it in their chakras to have a little patience and compassion for the rest of us. 



 

THE OVERNIGHT

Directed by Patrick Brice

With Scott, Schilling, Schwartzman and Godrèche

CCA Cinematheque

R

80 min.


A Bike Lane Runs Through It

Dutch doc 'The New Rijksmuseum' reveals how art institutions do and don’t work

YayWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Jonathan Kiefer

Oeke Hoogendijk’s highly absorbing documentary probes the decade-long renovation of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, an institution as locally renowned for its world-class collection of famous paintings as for the very Dutch-seeming bikeway that proudly yet pragmatically runs right through its belly. So of course any architectural adjustments would necessarily involve some intense negotiations with the cyclists union, not to mention the aesthetics commission, and just about any other agent of cultural bureaucracy you might imagine. Come to think of it, this sharply studied political morass of ego, entitlement and maddening administrative politesse is not unlike the scene of your average masterful Rembrandt tableau. No shortage of drama, in other words. For instance: As the project drags on, the museum director quits and moves to Vienna. “There’s more to life than museums,” he says. “Starting the biggest project of your life and walking out on it, that can’t feel very good,” someone else says. Though it actually observes people falling asleep in meetings, the film itself is not boring. Hoogendijk honors the art-historical legacy of the place without getting bogged down by it—indeed, her occasional gliding aerial views of the handsome fog-shrouded building do a crack job of counterpointing gravity with buoyancy. 



 

THE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM

Directed by Oeke Hoogendijk

CCA Cinematheque

NR

131 min.


Flowers, Fillies and Freud

SFO’s 5 for ‘15

OperaWednesday, July 1, 2015 by John Stege

Listen up, opera fans: they’re back! Those iconic historic romantic white petunias out at the Santa Fe Opera, that is. Some pesky petunia malady had been blighting those fragrant posies for a while, but as you shall see and smell, it’s A-OK again.

Then note the really significant developments up on Opera Hill, part of the first phase of SFO’s blockbuster three-part “Setting the Stage” physical plant improvement initiative. Most of this season’s enhancements won’t be open to the public gaze except on tours: a huge costume shop, more spacious backstage areas, vastly improved dressing rooms and a true green room.

But expect an entry plaza/picnic area complete with user-friendly seating, unisex restrooms and a kiosk for picking up pre-purchased suppers (not obligatory). A new Opera Shop will banish memories of its claustrophobic predecessor. Especially needful: many more comfort stations around the house, with enhanced libation stations as well. These should ease that vexing intermission choice: whither?

General Director Charles MacKay, now entering his seventh season, waxes enthusiastic: “The project’s been percolating energy all year. There’s the egalitarian aspect. These improvements benefit everybody—production team, artists, orchestra, patrons. With Phases Two and Three complete in 2017, we’ll be ready for the next fifty years.”

MacKay credits Paul Horpedahl, the company’s genius production director, for overseeing the project while simultaneously ushering five all-new shows, including three SFO firsts, onto the 2015 stage. July 3 opening night brings Donizetti’s über-cheery The Daughter of the Regiment (see one of Allen Moyer’s costume designs at right) here for the first time in the company’s 59 seasons, a strange repertory omission, especially since, as MacKay remarks, “Opera just doesn’t get more family-friendly.”

Given that Ned Canty, director of 2011’s effervescent The Last Savage, takes charge of the staging, expect shameless sight gags and madcap maneuverings. Speranza Scappucci, no stranger to SFO, debuts in the pit, with coloratura nightingale Anna Christy as the titular filly and Alek Shrader singing her slow-witted, high-flying beau.

Verdi’s Rigoletto hunches onstage July 4, vocal fireworks courtesy of Georgia Jarman in her company debut as Gilda. Quinn Kelsey, another SFO debutant, sings the snarly jester. MacKay comments about Kelsey, “True Verdi baritones are pretty scarce, and as you’ll hear, Quinn’s the real thing.” Bruce Sledge embodies that nasty duke, with Bryan Hymel taking over in August.

In his last outing, director Lee Blakeley provided an evening of frothy Offenbach. Not this time, what with Mantua’s degenerate court, a couple of rapes and a corpse at the curtain. He’s chosen a Risorgimento setting, about the period of Rigoletto’s composition, with visuals referencing Visconti’s Sicilian stunner, The Leopard. Jader Bignamini, a Riccardo Chailly protégé and Javier Gonzales look-alike, makes his American debut in the pit.

Speaking of corpses, another adult drama opens July 18. That would be Richard Strauss’ infallibly shocking Salome, making her eleventh SFO appearance since 1962. Alex Penda, last season’s chaste, tenacious Leonore in Fidelio, is once again tenacious if rather less than chaste in yet another title role. Her leading man, debuting here as the reluctant prophet Jochanaan, will be Ryan McKinny, who’s off to Bayreuth next summer to be Amfortas.

Instead of swanking around in quasi-biblical bathrobes, director Daniel Slater’s cast will be decked out as 1905 Viennese, the year of the opera’s premiere. Will the geist of Doktor Freud be hovering? You betcha. David Robertson, an avid Salome aficionado, conducts.

You might call the 18-year-old Mozart’s delightsome La Finta Giardiniera, opening July 25, seven characters in search of an opera. Even the title’s barely translatable. The phony gardener-girl? Please. When I asked MacKay his opinion of the action, he had a single word: “Confusing.” Expect switcheroo identities, an attempted murder, ample mad scenes, ill-matched lovers and a panoply of improbabilities.

But so what? It’s melodic, maturing Mozart, after all, and a seemly prefiguration of the great Da Ponte collaborations yet to come. Despite all the funny business, moments of touching gravity occur. Finales to the first two acts hint at the complex ensembles of Figaro. Finta is Mozart’s breakout opera: musically inventive and definitely “Mozartean.” SFO fields a starry cast with Tim Albery’s staging and Chief Conductor Harry Bicket in the pit.

Expectations keep bubbling away for opera number five, with tickets already mighty scarce. So if you’re planning to hear the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain, opening Aug. 1 for five performances, you’d better get busy. Based on the Charles Frazier novel detailing the fraught homecoming journey of wounded Confederate deserter WP Inman, Gene Scheer’s libretto attempts to condense and focus the book’s often blowsy narrative.

Higdon cites a broad diversity of artists contributing to her sound world. Think David Lang, Benjamin Britten, Chris Thile, the Punch Brothers and the Beatles, among many others. Raised in Tennessee, she adores bluegrass—as you’ll hear from time to time in this, her first opera. Typically, SFO gives its best shot to premieres. No exception here, with a dazzling cast list including Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, Emily Fons and Jay Hunter Morris. Leonard Foglia directs, Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts.

And all those petunias? Founding papa John Crosby loved ’em. Us too.


John Stege began opera-writing for the Reporter in 1986. Whew. Thirty years now. His first SFO performance was 1957’s The Rake’s Progress. Inaugural season. Cold cold night. Love at first sight.


American Cry-dol

Wherein I discover I am too old for American Idol

Music FeaturesWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Alex De Vore

I have peered into the gaping maw of insanity, and it is the American Idol auditions process. And when that ostentatious bus pulled into the Railyard Park, I was there to take in all the misplaced hope, curious obsession and oh-so-American desire to bypass the traditional routes to fame in the hopes of becoming an overnight sensation.

Now in its 15th and final season, American Idol has absolutely been a cultural phenomenon. After all, who among us is not aware of singers like Kelly Clarkson or Clay Aiken or…that other guy? And yet, at the core of what must seem like an exciting opportunity to the young and the restless is the age-old story of wide-eyed innocents looking to hit the big time and the sad but true reality that almost nobody is anywhere as good as they think they are.

My story begins with an attempt to sign up and audition myself to the tune of Toni Braxton (y’know, because that would have been a much funnier story), but when I fought my way to the sign-in table last Friday morning, a gigantic sign reading “You must be between the ages of 15 and 28 to audition” dashed my hopes and dreams. After the tears had subsided and I had shouted out the requisite, “Y’all ain’t seen the last of me!” speech, I asked a PA why it was that American Idol could indulge in such ageism. I was unceremoniously told to step aside, but according to supervising producer Brian Robinson, a 12-year veteran of the show, “It’s just the rules of the show…it’s an age range that gives us a really good idea of the kind of up-and-coming singers out there who are ready to take that path to stardom.”

And though I wondered what clandestine committee came up with and fed this guy that bullshit cut-and-paste answer, I suppose it’s only fair for them to run the show however the hell they want. Robinson said the age limit has never been an issue, but one can’t help but feel that there must be some extremely talented 30-somethings that have just been excluded. All the same, American Idol takes a very specific, Jason Mraz-loving, original song-avoiding, mainstream-obsessed kind of musician/singer purview, but hey—that might just be my own weird feelings, since my idea of the true joy of musicianship comes from being in the shit and doing the work.

Anyway, age restrictions or not, the fans showed up in droves. People like 23-year-old Stephanie Kurimski of Carlsbad, NM, who showed up at 3 am to make sure she was the first in line.

“I’ve wanted to try out since the first season, the first episode,” Kurimski says. “I just want to inspire people with music the way it has inspired me.”

Or Alexa Cappelli, 15, from Upland, Calif., who had been in line several hours and has wanted to audition since she was 8. Cappelli’s mother Sandy watched proudly as her daughter attempted to keep patient and told me that her daughter “very clearly has a gift.”

But this is the sad part. The Kurimskis and Cappellis of the world surely number in the bazillions, and the truth is that American Idol teaches them a dangerous lesson about the industry—namely that hard work, songwriting and paying one’s dues should take a back seat to the concept of overnight stardom. Almost everyone I spoke with said the same basic thing about loving the show and being positive they had a shot. Of course, those William Hung train wreck auditions that everyone else loves so much were not of any concern to these people, because they’re obviously very special. Or naïve. Yeah, that one.

The silver lining of my nightmarish journey into the heart of darkness came in the form of local singer-songwriter Miriam Kass who, at only 16, has become one of the most promising musicians in town and was auditioning with an original song.

“I like that the show is accessible for so many, and I like the inspiration it evokes,” Kass told SFR. “Ultimately, though, I think it produces more covers and less originality, and that’s the weaker side; there is so much more to being an artist.”

Very true. And really, that there was even one teenager who could grasp the reality of the situation took a lot of the sting out of being too old to compete. That, coupled with such a ridiculous show ending its dubious run, gives me hope for the future of music. Now if only the producers could unbreak my heart.


3 Questions

with Luis Sánchez Saturno

3 QuestionsWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Enrique Limón

Taking a departure from the daily grind and focusing on his artist side, Santa Fe New Mexican photographer Luis Sánchez Saturno presents Creative Spark this Friday at Roland van Loon Gallery. Focusing on “painting with light,” the Caracas-born photog’s stunning studio portraits employ long exposure and in-season sparklers that double as makeshift paintbrushes.

How do you balance the two aspects of your photography, the photojournalist and the artist sides?
Well, the two are not related at all. The photojournalism has been what my professional life has been—my professional life. But, photojournalism most of the time can be taxing mentally and emotionally. Along with good things, you also get to see some pretty horrible things. I think art photography for me is kind of like a way to use photography in a way that’s completely different. I get to break all the rules and do things that I wouldn’t necessarily get to do for a newspaper. As a photographer, I like to shoot just about everything I can think of, and that includes this light painting technique.

How did you first become aware of the method?
The technique has been around for a long time. Pablo Picasso has a photographic body of work using the light painting technique. A Japanese photographer friend showed it to him. He had attached lights to a figure skater’s skates and had photographed them. You would have these very graceful poses and then a streak of light that would come from the skate. The sparkler, to me, seemed like the nicest light source to use, because it can be kind of unpredictable, it has a very nice golden glow to it and the shapes look more organic.

How did you go about perfecting the technique?
It took some trying, for sure. When I first started, it wasn’t easy, because you’re trying to draw three-dimensional objects in three-dimensional spaces without seeing what you’re doing, and sometimes you better finish right where you started or otherwise things don’t necessarily match up. It’s trial-and-error, for sure. Sometimes you get it perfect the first time out, but that doesn’t happen usually [laughs].


Mind the Mining

SF County Commissioners listen to details of mining ordinance set to lift yearlong moratorium on mining operations

Local NewsTuesday, June 30, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Santa Fe County Commissioners listened Tuesday afternoon to the details of a proposed ordinance designed to lift a year-long moratorium on sand and gravel mining operations that is set to expire in mid-September.



Staff said the proposal, modeled after the county’s oil ordinance and gas ordinance, also addresses the less contentious but always pesky subjects of landfill and junkyard operations in the county. 


But the need for a new ordinance really grew out of a controversial plan last year that called for the mining of 50 acres of Waldo Canyon, located inside La Bajada mesa and known for its basalt.


It's a majestic, historical piece of rugged terrain that sits 18 miles southwest of Santa Fe that can be seen along the I-25 corridor. The land itself, with its swooping descents and ascents, is what's coveted for protection among environmentalists, historians and neighbors.  


And so when proposals to expand mining edged closer to a reality, there was an outcry, which led to the moratorium that is now the subject of pending litigation between the county and Buena Vista Estates Inc. and Rockology LLC., the owner and the mining company respectively. Both want to mine it for its basalt.



The informational meeting was sparsely attended. There was no protest or public outcry, in stark contrast to a little under a year ago when hundreds of angry residents from surrounding communities showed up in the name of protecting La Bajada mesa and their quality of life.


Penny Ellis-Green, the county’s growth management director, and Graham Billingsley, a consultant with Orion Planning Group, based in Boulder, Colo., outlined the rules and regulations that commissioners could expect to find in the proposed law.

Standards regarding the operations of landfills and junkyards, always a nemesis among neighbors who live in their midst, were also incorporated into the ordinance. But the bulk of the 40-minute presentation centered on gravel and mining operations, and they touched on standard fare subjects: Protecting the watershed and wildlife, preserving the water table, keeping noise, traffic and dust to a minimum while ensuring that no drilling would occur within a quarter-mile of a residence.

Most importantly, they said, there would be oversight, environmental impact reports, yearly monitoring, and the county would be able to intervene and stop operations if the standards in the law were not being adhered to, and all of this applied to sand and gravel mining operations in general.

The history of the mesa has been resurrected now that mining operations are imminent. It’s part of the Camino Real trail, a well worn path that travelers used between the 17th and 19th centuries. It’s a rugged piece of terrain that is somewhat of a major undertaking today in four wheel vehicles, let alone back in the day.

Buena Vista Estates and Rockology LLC, both of Albuquerque, are now waiting for the moratorium to be lifted. Peter Domenici Jr., the lawyer representing the two in district court, said last year that the moratorium wasn't justified, and that it was specifically aimed at preventing the mining of La Bajada on behalf of the county.

County Commissioner Miguel Chavez, before the meeting, said the county was exploring the options of transferring development rights, which serve as a possible solution to the problem.  Perhaps basalt could be mined someplace else, he says.

While he wasn’t opposed to the Waldo Canyon operation, Chavez says it’s important that the county have an ordinance that adequately regulates it.

Ellis-Green says after the meeting that the proposed ordinance had been a long time in coming and was always on the radar of county staff because landfills, junk yards and mining operations are key concerns among many Santa Fe county residents.

A series of community meetings will be held in the coming month to unveil the ordinance and how it will play into the greater scheme of their communities, she says.

Compressed to Impress

Airbrush artist Grant Kosh stages new regular emerging art show

PicksWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Enrique Limón

“It really falls back onto iconic pictures, because we’ve seen them so many times that those are the most striking ones,” Grant Kosh told SFR back in January 2013. The topic was his inspiration in the shape of emblematic celebrity portraits of Biggie, Bill Murray, John Belushi and the like.

On Friday, Kosh rounds up his latest batch of black-and-gray airbrush pieces and alongside Aron Kalaii, Michael Rohner and Guadalupe Vargas for the inaugural show at Sky High Gallery. The one-night-only art happening coincides with the downtown Art Walk, and Kosh envisions it will soon turn into a regular monthly show.

“My art has been hanging at Skylight since they first opened, and I initially had the plan in the beginning to get more of a gallery crowd in there,” Kosh tells SFR on a break from the filming of Manhattan, where he’s moonlighting as an extra. “Once they opened up Skylab, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that.”

Kosh says he hopes the venue, known for hosting everything from club nights to stand-up comedy, attracts a diverse mix of emerging artists who veer from the Santa Fe norm.

“Expect a fun time with food and drinks, good people and good art,” Kosh advances.

In a stretch known for its tourist-trappy usual suspects, Kosh and crew bring a refreshing change of pace and a much-needed dose of cool. Your own brush with fame awaits.



Sky High Gallery
5 pm Friday, July 3
Skylab @Skylight
132 W San Francisco St.,
982-0775


I'm on New Mexican Radio

Madrid debuts new low-frequency radio station. You should listen.

FeaturesWednesday, July 1, 2015 by Benjamin Yeager

On June 16, I sat in a coworker’s car in my office’s sweltering parking lot—because the radio in my car hasn’t worked in a decade—when a woman’s voice came out of the static: “This is K96.9 Madrid, New Mexico.” I was trying to catch the inaugural broadcast of Madrid’s new community radio station. Surprisingly, it came through crystal clear all the way up in Santa Fe. It was only supposed to reach 20 miles. But here was Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9.”

Now if 6 turned out to be 9,

I don’t mind, I don’t mind,

Alright, if all the hippies cut off all their hair,

I don’t care, I don’t care.

Dig, ’cos I got my own world to live through

And I ain’t gonna copy you

White collared conservative flashing down the street,

Pointing their plastic finger at me.

They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die,

But I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high.

The host, Stella Linder Byrne, 25, who is also one of the station’s dogged founders, said that the song was symbolic of the station’s frequency—96.9, a palindromic number. But I think she was setting a tone with a famous individualist anthem of the 1960s, an announcement of Madrid’s autonomy—that 25 miles south of Santa Fe, they were flying their freak flag.

To understand why a licensed radio station is important for Madrid, you have to understand a few things about the mining town turned ghost town turned artist enclave and tourist destination. “Part frontier ideology, part drug-culture imperative, and part New Age philosophy, individualism is the dominant leitmotif of Madrid,” Kathryn Hovey wrote in her book on the town, Anarchy and Community in the New American West, 1970-2000.

The town’s ethos is what makes it appealing to both eccentrics and tourists: “The temporary reprieve that the counterculture generation found in places like Madrid is in danger of itself being commodified. But in this temporary space, Madrid’s villagers have found a way to partly defy the dominant culture’s materialist hegemony and the state apparatus of control that comes with it: they have done this without living a life of constant mass protests or by acquiescing to it, but by simply living.”

Ashley Eastwood
Cathy Linford

Despite the fact that it’s in Santa Fe County, Madrid is unincorporated and doesn’t have its own municipal jurisdiction. Instead, the Madrid Landowners Association manages the town of 250 or so residents by covenant. Once you own property, you can vote on issues. The town disdains higher authority; there are no elected officials. A county sheriff’s cruiser passes through the neighborhood every day, but the people of Madrid take care of their own matters. For the most part, they’re artisans, artists and shop owners who rely on the town’s funky and outlaw appeal to attract droves of tourists. But the radio station represents something other than commerciality—an ongoing counterculture, a community with a rich history of individualism and pirate radio coming together to express itself through a licensed medium for the first time.

“Madrid was the stoned hippies that nobody took seriously,” says Joanna Lovetti, a community member who works in galleries and has lived in Madrid since the 1980s. “We were like Santa Fe’s illegitimate child. The radio station gives us pride that that’s not what we are. We’re our own thing, and people are finding us. In 2015, Madrid has become a creative force, like the Algonquin Round Table or like Paris in the ’20s.” Lovetti believes Madrid is in the middle of a “creative surge” similar to the one that led to the galleries on Canyon Road in the 1940s.

This new creative surge on the airwaves is an experiment. “It will be really interesting to see what comes of it,” Lovetti says. “We’re all figuring out how to put antennas on our houses. It’s created this common dialogue. It’s about the significance of our community.”

The radio station wouldn’t have come to fruition without the tireless work of Stella Linder Byrne. She was turned on to radio as a student at Oberlin College and moved to Madrid three years ago. Aware of pirate radio’s role as the voice of the community over the decades, she had kept an eye on the 2011 Local Community Radio Act, a national law giving local low-power FM (LPFM) stations a chance to compete with full-power radio stations, typically owned by major corporations or nonprofits. In the past, many small communities have resorted to pirate radio to get on the airwaves, which is technically illegal, contributing to the marginalization of these places. The act cites the importance of LPFMs, or “participatory radio,” in small communities and legalizes them. The new licensing period allowed in the 2011 law will permit LPFMs in more urban areas.

DJ Jerry Faires poses with his guitar during a song break.
Cathy Linford

But the window to apply for a license is short. During the fall of 2013, the Federal Communications Commission opened the process, and Linder Byrne jumped on it. She had been working with Madrid Cultural Projects, a nonprofit seeking to preserve Madrid’s history and foster community cultural projects. The feds granted the station a license in November 2013, with the nonprofit as the licensee. The community hosted fundraisers at the Mine Shaft Tavern and on Indiegogo to pay for the cost of constructing a radio tower and developing the station, which was around $10,000. Ongoing donations are tax-deductible and made through the nonprofit. The labor was free—community members with various expertise donated their services.

In March, the station, which sits below an art gallery called Studio 14 on Madrid’s main drag, was issued a construction permit. That entailed picking an elevated site on which the station had permission to build and choosing an available frequency. Work on the tower wrapped up last October, with the help of Will Floyd, a technician from the Prometheus Radio Project, an organization that helps community radio stations get up and running. It took a few days for Floyd and community volunteers to construct the tower on a hill just south of Madrid. A local blacksmith built a 26-foot steel mast to hold up the antenna. Carpenters formed the concrete base, and electricians and solar experts installed the solar system that powers the transmission equipment. There was little competition for 96.9, the frequency chosen for the station. Matt Zwager, a recent English transplant and synthesizer engineer, built the motherboard almost entirely from scratch over this spring.

On the mostly corporate airwaves, community radio is important to small, unincorporated places across the country. Matthew Lasar, cofounder of the Radio Survivor blog, says that LPFMs are particularly popular in towns like Madrid that were once ghost towns and got rediscovered as hippie havens and tourist destinations. “A lot of these places are glomming to these LPFMs as a way to solidify their communities and bring together the disparate people living there, these rugged individualists,” Lasar says. “This is part of a wave of these 100W radio stations popping up all over the United States. They have become community media centers for these places reinventing themselves across the Southwest.”

Engineer Matt Zwager cues up an LP.
Cathy Linford

Five zealous radio-lovers make up the Coordinating Committee, which manages the station: Ashley Eastwood, Katie Reed, Peter Singdahlsen, Zwager, and Linder Byrne. They’ve enlisted about 40 artists from the community to do everything from playing music to hosting talk shows and cooking programs to providing public service, like informing the community of the status of its water main.

According to the station’s website, “KMRD will grant the tools of media to the members of our diverse community, comprised of artists, youth, veterans, storytellers, historians, old-timers, music fans, and everyone in between. The radio station will serve Madrid, Cerrillos, and the surrounding areas, and will contribute to democratizing media across Santa Fe County and beyond.” For a town with a healthy off-the-grid populace, the station is more than cultural glue; it conveys valuable information.

“We’re part of a lineage of people wanting to make radio in this town, and we wouldn’t exist without it,” Linder Byrne says.

For Madroids, community radio allows local hosts to communicate in a collective setting while still presenting their own perspectives. “Through this paradigm of community, people develop their definitions of self and their surrounding reality through their social interactions with others,” Hovey writes. “[Madrid] is a place that supports, encourages, and reinforces personal idiosyncrasies to the point of pathology.”

A 2009 study by Bart Cammaerts at the London School of Economics applies radio to Hovey’s concept of community through singularity: “Community radio contributes both to external pluralism—by being a different voice among public and commercial broadcasters,” the study reports, “and to internal pluralism—by being basic-democratic and providing a platform for a diversity of voices and styles often lacking in mainstream media.”

 The basis of 96.9 is community empowerment through a number of different voices, all reinforcing this notion of individualism, for Madrid and by Madrid. “[The radio station] is a sign that the town is maturing past its ‘my way or the highway’ mindset,” Hovey says when reached by phone. “Very few things could bring this town together.”

It may be up and running, but the station is hard work, requiring constant troubleshooting. “I’ll sleep next week,” says Katie Reed, the station’s operations manager, sitting with Linder Byrne and Eastwood on the boardwalk in front of Studio 14.

"We were like Santa Fe’s illegitimate child. The radio station gives us pride that that’s not what we are. We’re our own thing."

“We gave ourselves titles,” Linder Byrne says with a smile. “Mine is the station manager. It’s better than my other title, which is awesome waitress at the Mine Shaft Tavern. Everyone has other jobs.” Linder Byrne hopes that the station will increase to 80 different hosts and add web streaming by the end of the year. “That’s something a lot of LPFMs don’t have,” she adds. “All this enthusiasm.” Complete community involvement is crucial, she says.

Opening the station’s doors to first-time radio hosts is no easy task. They have to learn to run the equipment and follow the strict federal rules on decency, obscenity and copyright. Eastwood has instituted a two-hour training regimen for prospective programmers. “It’s not a free-for-all,” Eastwood says. “We have the confines of the FCC. It’s complicated. What does decency mean? What does obscenity mean? No calls for action. Nobody can be under the influence of drugs or alcohol on air. It’s a laundry list. It’s been baby steps.”

Despite the growing pains, the station has completed several days of successful broadcasts. “There’s no blueprint for how to build a LPFM station,” Linder Byrne says. But they’re growing, adding hosts and acts, like Jerry Faires of the Family Lotus and Joe West of the Santa Fe Revue, and following regulations to protect the license they worked so hard to get.

Cathy Linford

The team hopes the station will become popular in Santa Fe and nearby towns, though it has limited range. “I think our programming is so interesting and creative and cool. We want our radio station to reach outside Madrid. It’s for our community here, but it’s so cool it would be wrong to deprive the world of it,” Eastwood says, tongue-in-cheek.

The station is already a point of community pride. Linder Byrne says it’s trippy how you can walk from business to business and hear the shows playing uninterrupted.

“It’s like a beautiful loop,” Reed says. “People are always referencing each other’s shows.”

“It’s our own little space in the universe,” Eastwood adds.

The station is down a staircase in the back of Studio 14. It’s a clean white basement with shelves teeming with CDs and vinyls donated by the community. In a corner is a DJ booth on a homebuilt desk, and Linder Byrne is on the air. She puts on a soulful tune by the Carolinas. Playing music is fun for her, but she’s more excited to hear what all the other people do. It’s all so new for her. Next up is Zwager with his synthesizer jam, then a political talk show and then some “old timey music.” I ask if the talk show will have guests; she doesn’t know. It’s the host’s first show, and she hasn’t even heard him yet.

Cathy Linford

She puts on “Pretty Good” by John Prine, and Eastwood scoffs playfully. “I can’t believe you’re playing John Prine. I cut him out of my playlist.” They talk about what Eastwood will play when it’s her turn and playfully judge each other’s tastes. She calls dibs on another song of his, “Illegal Smile.”

Reed moves magnets representing the different shows around on a scheduling board. Next to her hangs a sign that reads: “And the supreme court affirmeth the F.C.C. thus saying to the BROADCASTERS – thou shalt not saith these seven sinful words: shit, fuck, piss, motherfucker, tits, cocksucker or cunt.” After assuring me that there are plenty more words the FCC doesn’t approve of, Linder Byrne puts her headphones back on and talks into the microphone: “This is 96.9 FM KMRD-LP Madrid, New Mexico.” She glances at a sign with that phrase written out, reminding the hosts of what to say. She puts on Richie Havens.

I walk upstairs. Havens’ hearty voice and frenetic guitar follow me up into the gallery; the station is playing up there. On the walk back to my car, I hear his voice emanating from at least three different businesses on Madrid’s main street. It seems the only place it isn’t playing is my radio-less car. I think it’s about time I got that fixed.


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