So ends another year in Santa Fe, and with its exit comes the understanding that the last 350-some-odd days were crammed with music and art and all kinds of other stuff. Let's take a look back at some notable items from 2019, shall we?
In January, we brought you news of Snot Goblin, an Española-based metal act brimming over with young folks who enjoy both rocking hard and not taking everything so dang seriously. Hot off the heels of their freshman release, the EP Into the Boiling Pot, Snot Goblin was gearing up for more shows and writing all the time. And though 2019 wound up a quiet year for the band and they've since become a duo, members tell me they've got plans for completing a full-length over the next year and should be doing exciting things in 2020 and 2021.
February was a heck of a month as we learned jazz piano master Brian Haas teamed with New Orleans trumpet champ Alex Massa for a tour of improv-based shows, and they started right here in Santa Fe where Haas lives. If it's jazz you like (even if/especially if you think you hate it), he's the guy to see. That month also saw Meow Wolf's first-ever album release, El Cantador, a spirited Mariachi album from musician/comedian Carlos Medina, and a new EP from sister weirdo-rock trio Lindy Vision—a band that rules and lives on and deserves all the attention. Traditional Norteño and New Mexican folk music act Lone Piñon released Dalé Vuelo, too, and someone even made a documentary about them.
In March, music/arts collective High Mayhem Emerging Arts kicked off its On(e) Day series, a still-going project that finds local and touring acts producing an album in one day while also being live streamed. Texas' Satin Spar kicked things off, and others have included High Mayhem leader Carlos Santistevan and local virtuoso Jeremy Bleich. Also that month, the Santa Fe Indian School's Celebration of the Arts continued to rule, the New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus sounded off on Harvey Milk, and REMIX Audio Lab—the coolest-ass coffee shop ever around—started offering DJ classes alongside its small-batch, fair-trade, delicious-as-hell coffee.
April brought Brian Eno fave R. Ariel to town with her one-woman indie-electro jamz, as well as info on how the annual Record Store Day boosts things for small town retailers. Metal act Heretical Sect wowed local metalheads with crushing black metal based in the blood-soaked history of the desert (and some members went on to join Superstition, a massively huge metal act that tore up tours in America and Europe over the year—AND Heretical Sect had one of the highest number of Bandcamp streams ever), and Los Angeles' HEALTH brought a new album and their noise-rock artistry to Meow Wolf. We've gotta get that band back here—they're amazing.
In May, we spoke with Blaze star Ben Dickey who, at his show at local studio Kitchen Sink, proved to be one of the most talented yet down-to-earth musicians of all time. If you've yet to see the Blaze Foley biopic from Ethan Hawke starring Dickey, you should get on it, especially if you're a John Prine fan. That same month, the Monolith on the Mesa fest went down in Taos and pretty much proved to everyone everywhere that New Mexico fucking loves metal. Seriously, though, it was huge and paired locals and non-locals alike on two stages of beer-fueled mayhem. Oh, metal—how we love thee. May also heralded the first fledgling steps of promising indie act The Blackout Pictures, a band so full of kickass local artists (like illustrator Lindsay Payton on vocals and painterly genius Jared Weiss) that it almost seems unfair they'd be so good at so many things. LA's Cherry Glazerr came to town, too, as part of the Convergence Project Oasis Festival, an event run, produced and booked by and for teens in the community.
Come June, Albuquerque's Gerunding taught us a thing about feeling our feelings and being in touch with ourselves, while multimedia artist and musician Russian Tsarlag brought the unusual to Santa Fe's DIY warehouse scene. We stood up for guitar-based music (it rules) and even ran a Q&A with Guster's Ryan Miller. This pretty much made former copy editor Charlotte Jusinski's life worth living, even if she left us for an editor-in-chief position with the state museum system's El Palacio magazine. Seems C-Ju's long-con was to work someplace off and on for 15 years just so she could talk to homeboy from Guster then split. Yikes.
In July, Rebecca Black—yes, the "It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday" singer appeared in town for some reason, but the real stunner was Robert Ellis, aka the Texas Piano Man, a musician who's one part Willie, a little bit Nilsson and who's outdoor show on the lawn of the El Rey Court was so magical that we can only feel pity for the goofballs who didn't bother to show up. Ellis came back later in the year with Rufus Wainwright, so hopefully y'all at least caught that one. Old-school Santa Fe rock gods Babelshack reformed that month after a decade apart, too, and though things have been relatively quiet from camp Barnaby Hazen/Dylan Blanchard/Westin McDowell/Dylan McDowell, we've been told things are happening, albeit slowly.
When we hit August, Santa Fe's most beloved post-rock quartet Future Scars finally released a full-length called Harrow, and it was jammed with great tunes in weird time signatures with guitar tapping and the FEEEEEEEELS from singer/guitarist Eliza Lutz. Lutz also put together a nifty art show to coincide with the release, which opened at DIY space Show Pony Gallery, and which yielded a painting inspired by each song on Harrow, and yer buds at SFR streamed the album exclusively for a few days before release. It was a time of goodness in the galaxy. We talked hip-hop a few times that month, both with Albuquerque's Def-i, a Diné artist who was half of Definition Rare featuring tragically killed MC Wake Self (more on that later) and Colorado-living/Santa Fe-born Dylan Montayne. We loved Def-i's new stuff something fierce; we thought Montayne took a step back artistically.
September was pretty nuts, from the Candyman Strings & Things turning 50 and folk singer-songwriter Xanthe Alexis making her triumphant return to town, to newly-minted SFR music writer Aedra Burke's first-ever piece tackling the bizarre idea that people who live in the same town as you somehow owe your music their support.
By October, the Game of Thrones concert experience thing at the Santa Fe Opera brought together nerds and stoners in the most meaningful way since Linklater's Dazed and Confused, while Cold War Kids came with rock and Idaho's Sun Blood Stories proved Haunt Yourself might be the most underrated album of the year (look 'em up, for real). That same month found blues virtuoso Christone "Kingfish" Ingram's blues shredding wending its way to Santa Fe, and electronic wunderkind SMOMID taught us all what the hell a light guitar does (and it was rad).
Come November, we not only came perilously close to blowing up Aedra Burke's brain by sending her to interview rock/metal/folk goddess Chelsea Wolfe and we learned why Brooklyn, New York's Bethlehem Steel is an important force in the punk-lite world of today. We also dealt with the shocking death of ABQ rapper Wake Self. Writer Alicia Inez Guzmán brought the absolute heat in a tribute piece to Wake, aka Andrew Martinez, who'd been gearing up to release a full-length album called Ready to Live at the time of his death. We've seen the album out there, by the way, and all proceeds will reportedly go to setting up a foundation of some kind in Martinez's name. When we know more, we'll let you know. Meanwhile, the Plaza buskers dealt with judgmental downtown business owners (AGAIN!), we FINALLY got guitarist/Native American flute player Ronald Roybal in the pages of SFR and, thank God, discovered that former Angry Samoans member Gregg Turner is set to teach a class on punk rock for New Mexico Highlands University during the upcoming spring semester.