Friday, October 22, 2010
Tones on Tale
Summer ain't summer without a festival. A festival ain't a festival without weather. It was only June, but rainy season had come on stage early. Jakob Dylan had just finished his set and Robert Mirabal's guys were setting up for him. Despite this being the Taos Solar Music Festival, the clouds had come over quickly, with lightning falling skittishly all around. I wondered how many concert fatalities occur each summer due to electrical storms? I remember back to a Dead show in Vegas, circa 1993 I think, where a guy in the parking lot had been struck. I wondered if he'd been tripping, and if so, how would he know what had happened to him? But I too had been tripping at that show, and may have imagined the whole thing. Anyway, here in Taos, Dylan Jr. had put on a great set, but nothing prepared me for Mirabal. I'd intended to watch it from my camp chair, expecting some mellow Native American flute music. But the guy ripped, his band working through a set of hard blues, the guitar player all tall and black and cool in his cowboy hat and boots, Mirabal nearby spinning and swirling, mostly on one leg. I was dancing up front again by song number two. He put on one of the best shows I've seen in a while, and I was sad to hear that it may be his last, but props to the guy for wanting to spend more time with his young daughter. The main event was Michael Franti and Spearhead, who I'd been wanting to see for awhile. I started out up front again, getting more and more caught in the crush. One guy beside me started to pick a fight, not liking how I was crowding his lady. I said, hey brother, who isn't getting crowded up here? I assumed that this guy was probably prone to pot fueled brawling, for the girlfriend got really pissed at him and quickly rushed away, him following and pleading. I alternated between my usual feelings about how violent this society can be, and the irony of someone starting a fight at a Franti concert. The rest of the set went peacefully, Franti rocking out with his band of look-alikes: Robbie Robertson and Comic Book Guy and Fred Egerer from my college days. The latter had only been with the group a few weeks, and he had this MASSIVE grin on his face, like the happiest boy in the world. By the second hour, I grew tired of the crush, and retired back to my chair to watch the sky. I hadn't been to a big time rock'n'roll show in awhile, preferring smaller, more intimate club gigs. So, I sat in my chair, watching the stars disappear to the flash of lightning, as dozens of kids bounced up and down on stage, way past their bedtimes.
Taos again, this time the 2nd Annual Mountain Music Fest, held up at the ski grounds. Until I'd arrived I hadn't really gotten the name, wondering why Gov't Mule was headlining. Then I turned around and saw Mt Wheeler towering over us and I thought "Oh, right!" We'd chosen Out Back Pizza over the opening acts, but arrived just in time for Yonder Mountain String Band to inspire us to make every muscle twitch in time to their bluegrass twang. Between acts Miki and I watched the kids playing in the play area, on mechanisms I'd never seen before. Then Gov't Mule took us into night, giving us a Whole Lotta Love...
There were also shows closer to home. Lyle Lovett closed out the Paolo Soleri, though whether it is for good remains to be seen. I had thought they'd never let the Paolo die, that some benefactors would come up with the required amounts for renovations, until a wise friend mentioned that the Natives who own the place don't care about the sentimentality of rich white people. Lyle's band was very large, including these backup singers who swung low through the gospel numbers. When I say low, I mean low, for the baritone sang in such a low register that I half expected his voice to get road rash. Lyle kept up the stage banter, the highlight being for me the bluegrass quartet stepping to the mike to take a verse.
A surprise gig was at Buffalo Thunder Casino up on the Tesuque Rez. It was private invite only thing, with us on the list. Miki had befriended a woman in town who is married to a born-in -Japan percussionist, and his band was putting on a short set, the day before playing the music festival on the following afternoon. I ran into the wife at REI the day before, saying that I'd been thinking of going to the festival, since I wanted to see Ozomatli. She laughed and said, Ted, my husband's band is Ozomatli. And they provided, our feet off the floor for half the set, as the hipsters raided the free food table behind us.
There was non-rock going on too, with devotional singing on a chilly night with Deva Premal and Krishna Das. And later in the summer, Miki and I scored 29 dollar nose bleed tickets for "The Magic Flute" at the Santa Fe Opera, where half the fun was tailgating in the parking lot and people watching. Mozart's classic surprised me in how anti-Christian it was. The locals gods apparently agreed, tossing lightning onto the desert behind the open backed stage.
And the summer was equally defined by the shows I missed--Telluride Bluegrass and Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Aspen Music Festival and Primus up at Red Rocks. But I know that they, and the music will be back next summer too.
On the turntable: Bob Marley, "Burnin'"