Since moving here from Denver in May of last year, Kyle Gray has already become an integrated local, vital to the many facets of DIY culture and music. It seems only natural after creating inroads with local musicians and artists since 2010 through frequent tour stops with his excellent Denver-based workhorse band, Rubedo.
They're one of those rare bands on the DIY touring circuit that stands out with a signature sound and a scope that stretches far beyond your typical warehouse noodlers. Picture a keyboard-rich, eclectic sound taking the standard rock palette and imbuing it with wonder; Rubedo has grown to be a nationally respected act, all while thriving in the ubiquitous unconventional art spaces and house show venues that make up the country's more interesting corners of the music non-industry.
Santa Fe has always been an essential stop for Gray, even if shows varied drastically in attendance.
"Shows [in Santa Fe] were either hit or miss," he recalls. "They would be a great house show where everyone's enthusiastically dancing around a campfire, or it would be empty."
But Gray expresses a love for such out-there venues, having helped build a strong community in Denver of simpatico outsider musicians and artists.
"[In Denver] we ran a place called Unit E, and then Dryerplex Studios. We would get together and make these spaces where our friends' bands could play or friends could hang their art," he explains. "That's what was so important to me, because I saw the community in that and we all grew together. Now that I've successfully come from that, I want to give back."
Recognizing the already-vibrant DIY scene here in Santa Fe, Gray tried to find focus for his nearly inexhaustible enthusiasm.
"I ended up at Rockin' Rollers; the stars aligned that way," says Gray, who saw the venue sitting seemingly inactive on Agua Fría and was immediately curious.
Soon after, Jacob Chacko of local band Cult Tourist found an ad on Craigslist for a rehearsal space in the roller rink's office spaces. Together with Gray and Evan Laurence of Santa Fe psych act Foam, they began rehearsing and recording and, soon after, Gray and Chacko pitched the idea of throwing shows to Rockin' Rollers owners Bill Spencer and Robbyn Garden. The shows worked, even if attendance was varied, and Gray and others were able to pay a rental fee to the venue and offset it with a modest door charge.
"We were just playing through pieced-together PAs and a beat-up stage. But it would be with bands with the experience of also roller skating," Gray recalls of the early forays into promotion. "The shows would have momentum and energy, even if only 15 people showed up because they're spinning around."
And now that such shows are a proven model, the alien-themed event space continues to grow as a community center for young and old alike. The Beginners Breaking League, for example, is a youth dance organization that lost its former home at Warehouse 21 (or Studio Center or whatever the heck it's being called now)—but now has a space for its workshops on Wednesday evenings at 5:30.
As steam builds, Gray hopes to assemble a larger crew of volunteers and raise funds for better equipment in order to "extend my reach out to people who would want to become involved to see this place thrive."
Some of music's most iconic moments have taken place in venues like this offbeat, alien-themed (it bears repeating, dammit), black-lit roller rink. Some of them even in this venue specifically—apocryphally, seminal sludge metal champions Neurosis played there in the '90s as have bands like Cave In, Thursday, Monkey and countless locals.
It's a bit of a full-circle feeling, and a happy one. The world needs these spaces—the weirder the better. And as Gray and his cohorts hope to grow their ranks with volunteers and promoters in the coming year, he encourages anyone who wants to throw an event to get in touch.
"It's not me doing this, it's everybody," he says. "I invite anybody who wants to be able to have an event or perform to reach out and see how we can make it happen."
6-8 pm every Friday. $5.
Rockin' Rollers Event Arena,
2915 Agua Fría St., 473-7755
To discuss your own event, email firstname.lastname@example.org