Arts & Culture

Best of Santa Fe 2015

Best Blast from the Past

Monroe Gallery
112 Don Gaspar Ave., 992-0800

Charming and ethereal, powerful and thought provoking, no two visits to Monroe Gallery are the same. The product of owners Sid and Michelle Monroe's love for great photojournalism of the Time/LIFE era keeps the inventory simultaneously pragmatic and poignant. "I just can't think of anything more compelling or dynamic than chronicling our human history, our progress and our failures; our agonies of defeat and extraordinary moments of elevation," Michelle says. Through Sept. 27, Monroe hosts The Long Road: From Selma to Ferguson, which began as a commemoration of the historic march. "We thought we had finished this show in 2013," the gallerist continues. "Events started to unfold in Ferguson and Staten Island, in Cleveland with Tamir Rice, that presented such an extraordinary/terrible opportunity to make it a bigger conversation about how far we've come and what accomplishments have we let slip." (EL)

Best Venue for When You’re Sick of the Same-old, Same-old

2889 Trades West Road, Ste. C, (832) 622-3079

Nestled down within the storage units and warehouse spaces of the burgeoning Siler Road arts district, you'll sometimes hear the muffled sounds of local and touring bands, and it's not coming from Duel Brewing or Meow Wolf or High Mayhem. OK, maybe it is, but for the purpose of this thing, we're talking about Ghost, the newest little house venue that can (and should) and probably will. Run by the folks who call it home, alongside promoters from the now-defunct house show space Pink Haüs, Ghost has been quietly going strong for several months now. And while the downtown spots or even certain other house-like concert spaces seem to focus hard on their preferred genres, it isn't unusual to see more styles of music in one night at Ghost than other venues get in a year. Metal, punk, electronic, rock, indie, folk…you name it, they'll do it, and everything is by donation! Great plan? You bet. (ADV)

Best Adjoined Concert Venues that Are Off the Beaten Path but So Totally Worth it

The Cave and Radical Abacus
Find someone in the know for address details (it isn't hard)

Within the burgeoning house venue milieu are two warehouse/residential spaces whose tenants have chosen to transform into anything but another boring live/work space. We speak of The Cave (formerly Dave Cave) and Radical Abacus, a bisected warehouse space that offers up two sides of the same DIY coin. The Cave showcases metal bands—both local and touring—pretty much all the time, while Radical Abacus hosts the more experimental world of musical creation, or even super-cool '60s-themed dance parties. Both spots are a testament to the age-old truth that young people will get sick of their musical surroundings and take it into their own hands to innovate and excite their peers (and older folks). It's a lot of hard work with very little payoff, but when you're young and in love with music, that hard work pays personal dividends. It also translates into those hidden gems within a city that can make us all proud we live here. And so to both of y'all venues, we salute you and say that you are totally noticed. Keep up the good work. (ADV)

Best New Band Comprised Entirely of Teenagers that Makes Aging Pop-Punk Guys Look toward the Horizon and Sigh Wistfully

Luck Streak

Pop-punk doesn't get enough credit. Probably because bands like Blink-182 and Strung Out ruined it for everyone, but if we look to bands like Descendents or Jawbreaker or even the Ramones, there is a rich tradition of deceptively simple music that speaks to the emotional inner narrative we all experience and conveys those feelings through accessible music. It's a genre that seemed lost in Santa Fe, but one that is slowly making a comeback thanks to acts like Almost a Lie and, my personal favorite, Luck Streak. The band proves to be masters of melody and champions of an aging style, and anyone who fondly recalls the early '90s pop-punk push will surely find themselves staring off into space and longing for a time when these bands roamed the earth. Luck Streak seems to have a strong respect for the bands that once made this sound great, and while they still have a ways to go before they themselves reach greatness, they're one of the most promising new local bands in recent memory, and one made up entirely of teens. Watch your backs, bar bands and baby-boomer blues types—Luck Streak is going places. (ADV)

Best Used Bookstore that’s Sure to Charm You

Big Star Books & Music
329 Garfield St., 820-7827

Located in the Railyard neighborhood, Big Star occupies a small house that stands alone on a semi-busy corner. It's a white house with a blue door and blue trimming; sunflowers grow in the front lawn; a sign outside of it simply says "Books." The porch is full of discounted books on carts. Inside, one finds nice wood floors and a cozy setup. Given its size, Big Star has a vast collection of high-quality and affordable used books. Here you might find everything, from first editions to recent best sellers. They have a comprehensive selection of most genres, a good number of audio books and, for all those wary of advancements in technology, a healthy library of CDs and cassettes. You may find yourself losing track of time, but don't worry: It's a part of the charm. (NA)

Best New Train-Themed Mural

Mural on the side of Sage Inn
725 Cerrillos Road

Santa Fe-born artist Sebastian "Vela" Velazquez worked with local youth community service organization Teen Court to adorn the side of the Sage Inn with a marker of the history and the future of Santa Fe's love affair with trains. The mural, which faces Cerrillos and Don Diego, depicts a conductor leaning from the window of a train against the backdrop of one of those brilliant New Mexico sunsets. "That wall had been graffitied before in the past, and they kept having to invest money to paint over the graffiti, so they brought me into the project to beautify the wall," Velazquez says. The nearly 50-foot-long mural recalls the currently running Rail Runner but replicates the Santa Fe Railway's legendary luxury train, the Super Chief, which served as a main source of transport for the city while it ran from from 1936 to 1971. The subject seemed a good fit, given the proximity to the bustling Railyard and the pending opening of a restaurant at the inn called Derailed, Velazquez adds. He's also worked on a new mural a few blocks down on a dry cleaners that depicts downtown Santa Fe and its festivals, including Zozobra, and says more murals are in the works in the city. Just pull over to the side of the road before you stop traffic to stare. (EM)

Hardest-Working Guy within the Local Concert Promotion Game Who You’ve Never Heard Of

Geronimo Darras

We all know about local promoter Jamie Lenfestey and his many excellent shows over the years with Fan Man, Heath Concerts and now AMP Concerts, but what you may not know is that the man doesn't do it all alone. By his side through thick and thin has been Geronimo Darras, a man who came up in the Los Angeles music scene of the '80s and who has that old-school work ethic us millennials just can't seem to hang with. For every one of Lenfestey's shows, Darras is there working his ass off, be it through flyers and promotion before the big day, logistical support leading up to showtime, stage management, angry band deflection and on and on. "Geronimo has been my concert business soulmate since we first started working together 15 years ago," Lenfestey says of his partner. "Often when I am advancing a show, the production manager will ask if Geronimo is going to be there, because then he knows it is going to be a good day." (ADV)

Hardest-Working Metal Guy Who Looks Totally Scary Onstage but Is Then the Nicest Dude Ever and Basically Makes Anything Metal that Goes Down in Santa Fe Happen

Augustine Ortiz

Perhaps you've seen Augustine Ortiz performing with bands like Carrion Kind or the newly minted Dysphotic, but what you might not know is that he does so much more for the scene. Sure, he looks a little scary onstage with his trademarked "I'm shredding, dammit!" grimace, but when he puts the guitar or the bass down, he is one the hardest-working promoters/audio engineers our city has to offer, and one of the nicest dudes you'll ever meet in your life. He was the mastermind behind the tragically cut-short Six Feet Under show, he's brought bands like Intronaut through town, he's provided audio assistance for so many locals it's crazy and he's done all this while being one of the most accessible and friendly people. He's the kind of man who inspires excellence and who gives so much of himself to the scene he loves, and that's the kind of attitude we could all learn from. (ADV)

Best Movie Theater that Lives Up to its Bumper Sticker Slogan

The Screen
1600 St. Michael's Drive, 473-6494

A Screen bumper sticker proudly proclaims, "I'd rather be watching obscure World Cinema at the Screen." And it has long been the place to fulfill this preference. Built on a former soundstage and used for film classes by Santa Fe University of Art and Design, the single-screen shows high-quality films found nowhere else. From a documentary about Cambodian pop stars to a three-hour medieval period piece/sci-fi epic by a late Russian director, there is no stone left unturned. Or, better yet, the Screen turns over the stones that other theaters in town simply aren't interested in. That's not supposed to reflect poorly on the other theaters in town—by playing what they play, the other theaters allow the Screen to fill a niche that would otherwise be lacking. And the Screen fills it well: I've seen films there that I'd never expect to see in a theater—leaving me happy with all my turned stones. (NA)

Best Band Member Who Just Kind of Does His Own Thing While Vastly Improving the Overall Sound

Gunnar Lyon—As In We

I think we've all proven that, as a town, we love As In We. It just makes sense, really, because their heavy-meets-poppy through a mathematically challenging prog-rock lens works for fans of just about any genre. And even though credit should and does go to the guitarists and drummer of this talented young group of musicians, it's time to pay respect to the oft-underappreciated members of the rhythm section and a man who is a stellar songwriter in his own right—Gunnar Lyon. I very briefly jammed with him some time ago, and it opened my eyes to the brilliance of Lyon's style. He understands that the bass is there to provide the bones of the song, but he has an incredible, off-kilter style and effortless ability to somehow see the overall format of the song and completely alter it for the better with even the simplest of added notes. And so I posit the theory that As In We would be a completely different band without him, and one that isn't nearly as good. (ADV)

Best Octogenarian Thespian

Cliff Russell

By his own admission, Cliff Russell waited a while to surrender to his muse. "I was 65 years old before I ever set foot on a stage," the veteran post office clerk says. "I got kind of trapped into it by my daughter. She was in a play called El Baile—which was written by Joey Chavez, a local playwright—and I walked into her rehearsal and the director of the play saw me and said, 'You're my Alfredo C de Baca,'" he reminisces. "I hadn't even opened my mouth." He's been "hooked ever since" and is now a mainstay in several productions, including Fiesta Melodrama. "I played the only full-blooded gringo Don Diego de Vargas," the Connecticut native says of some of his more memorable roles, "and he was 204 years old. I came out of a trap door, like I was coming up out of a grave, and then another one was when I played a gay barber who had an issue with the governor...My life has been a blast, and I love what I do." (EL)

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.