Livetaos.com Summer Music Preview

Thievery Corporation at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. The band is one of the headliners at the Taos Vortex, Aug. 3 and 4. Photo by John Shore

With Taos’s summer music season in full swing, we realize it can often feel like these events and festivals are geared more toward tourists and folks from outside of the Taos area. A festival ticket can eat up an entire week’s worth of tips, and once you get there you’re like, “ugh, who are all these people?”

Well, fret no more. Livetaos.com has compiled a quick, easy way for locals to enjoy any musical occasion this summer has to offer. Sometimes, you have to embrace your quirky local identity, while other times you need to try and blend in with the out-of-town crowd. So here, we identify when and where to employ said tactics, while also providing a highly useful list of the summer’s biggest events.

Taos Plaza Live!
Every Thursday through Aug. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.
It’s on Taos Plaza … also, it’s live

Another season of Taos Plaza Live! brings another solid roster of local and regional bands and musicians, including Big Swing Theory (June 14), The Damn Band (July 5), The Noseeums (July 26), Last to Know (Aug. 9) and Shannon & The Southern Soul (Aug. 23).

Tip: Taos Plaza Live! is truly a local’s event so treat it accordingly. If you do see someone you don’t know, assume they are a tourist and ignore them. Be sure to exude a feeling that this is our thing and nobody invited them anyway. (We’re kidding of course. This is a disconcertingly welcoming event, and we love to see the Plaza buzz.) Go to the Taos County Chamber of Commerce website for the full schedule.

A scene from a recent Taos Opera Institute Gala.

Taos Opera Institute
June 7-30
Various locations, visit taosoi.org for further information

Taos Opera Institute is “an integrated and intensive training program, focused on improving [a singer’s] total wellness, technique and artistry.” As part of this program, TOI hosts a series of free concert performances (17, in fact) and the June 30 Gala & Reception (only $25) at the Taos Community Auditorium, at 7 p.m.

Tip: These events are classy, educational and entertaining. Really, if you’re an opera fan, or ever wanted to be an opera fan, you should just go, no matter where you’re from. But, if you’re a tourist, make sure and wear the arm badges we hand out when you get to town so we know who you are. Those are mandatory by the way.

Seco Live
June 13, July 4 and Aug. 2
Downtown Arroyo Seco

Seco Live is a nonprofit organization that “supports the community and culture of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico through music education by providing free concerts.” This year’s lineup includes the pan-African sounds of Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba on June 13, and Latin electronica group Novalima, from Peru, on Aug. 2. Seco Live also has a hand in the most eclectic Fourth of July celebration in the country, in downtown Arroyo Seco.

Tip: Free world-class music in an idyllic mountain village? Well, don’t blame us if you miss this opportunity. I mean, here we are publishing this news days in advance of the first show. You don’t have to get tickets or anything, just show up. Seriously, you are hopeless if you don’t go.

Music in the Park

Michael Franti

Michael Franti & Spearhead, with The Original Wailers
June 9 at 6 p.m.
Kit Carson Park

The king of peace and good vibes toward men returns to Taos, where his popularity is as high as some of the people he is popular with (no judgement, just the facts). Along for the ride are the legendary Wailers, of Bob Marley fame.

Tip: Step No. 1 – grow some dreadlocks (please note, as of press time, if you do not already have dreadlocks, there is not time to grow dreadlocks. Perhaps next time). If you already have dreadlocks, please proceed to the concert and have a nice time. If you do not, that’s OK too, because no one is more inclusive than Michael Franti! Warning: though Michael Franti loves you, there is a chance, if you are not inclined to high levels of positivity and ska beats, that you will not love Franti. That’s OK. This is America, you can go where you want to go, right?

Free 4th of July Concert
July 4 (see above)
Kit Carson Park

Last year’s free holiday concert featured world music superstars Ozomatli ringing in the fiscal new year (for some, right?). This year, expect more awesomeness with The Family Stone, Baracutanga and Taos’s own The Damn Band. It’s a great way to celebrate the things that make our nation truly great … diversity, rhythm and fireworks.

Tip: A great way for locals and tourists alike to celebrate the 4th. Who doesn’t love free music? I mean, sure, some people might say free music in the park is a socialist concept and that it completely undermines free enterprise and everything true and just about the American form of Democracy. I say, to hell with those people! Free is the best price known to man, and as long as the lack of monetary exchange is completely consensual, who is getting hurt? Huh? Tell me Mr. businessman?  I know what some of you locals are thinking … “but, but, house parties?” Right, I hear you, I like to barbecue and yuck it up in the backyard as much as anyone else, but damn it, can’t you think of the community for once? I mean, ya, we all have to make choices.

Old Crow Medicine Show
Aug. 18
Kit Carson Park

Continuing an already stellar August of music in Taos, AMP Concerts and the Town of Taos bring one of the best old-time (but contemporary) string bands, Old Crow Medicine Show, to town. These guys are great live and it’s going to be a fun night under the Taos sky for sure.

Tip: There will be no crows and no medicine for sale during this performance. There will be no bottles of Old Crow whisky for sale either (I don’t think?). Will there be banjos? Yes. Will there be fiddles? Yep. Hootenanny time? Of course! Shit kickin’? Probs. If you don’t go, more space for me to swing my elbows maniacally as a demonstration of the power of music to compel middle-aged white men to finally do more than bob their heads.

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Taos School of Music
June 17-Aug. 5
Hotel St. Bernard and Taos Community Auditorium

Like the Taos Opera Institute, the Taos School of Music offers the public a chance to see some of the finest up-and-coming talents in their respective fields before they reach Yo Yo Ma status. In this case, the field is classical music and these youngsters have chops. If I wrote like they played music, you might still be reading this. In addition to amazing young talents, locals and tourists alike can see established acts such as Borromeo String Quartet, the Shenghai Quartet and Brentano String Quartet, as well as pianists Robert McDonald and Thomas Sauer. Visit taosschoolofmusic.com for a complete list of concerts and venues.

Tip: Note to millennials – classical music is primarily instrumental but not “jammy.” Some of this music is centuries old and can be as invigorating as it is soothing. Activities generally considered unacceptable during classical music performances include: talking loudly during the cello solo, snapping selfies, instagramming, live-blogging, texting, sexting, tricking out your van, keg stands and Whip-Its (OK, never mind, I admit that last one was my generation).

Fiestas de Taos is a colorful and lively celebration of our community’s uniqueness.

Las Fiestas de Taos
July 20-22
Taos Plaza

Come celebrate the Feast of St. Anne and St. James during the annual Taos Fiestas, an event that “allows the local population to put aside their labor for two days and bask in the leisure of the holy days.” The festival is meant as a way to celebrate the uniqueness of Taos and its multi-cultural heritage. There will be musical performances, the crowning of La Reina (the Fiestas queen) and two parades, plenty of food and drink and other vendors.

Tip: I don’t care who you are, it’s not OK to leave your kid on Tio Vivo all day while you eat corn dogs and snow cones. Also, drink lots of water, it’s hot out there people.

Motet on the Mesa
July 27-28
Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership

Not to be confused with the “motel on the mesa,” Hotel Luna Mystica, The Motet is a funk band from Colorado, and they’re coming down from the Front Range with Break Science, Sunsquabi, The Suffers, Tauk, Organ Freeman and Mama Magnolia for two nights of music, fun and possibly some camping.

Tip: Given the potential influx of Coloradans, some ideas for blending in: wear a trucker hat from your favorite microbrewery (or with the state flag) and some sort of athletic gear that makes it look like you started the day with a bike ride and/or rock climb. To be clear that you are now ready to party, throw on some face paint and put a skirt on over those bike shorts. Dance and repeat.

The Flaming Lips/ Courtesy Warner Brothers

Meow Wolf Presents Taos Vortex
Aug. 3-4
Kit Carson Park

Presented by Amp Concerts and Meow Wolf, Taos Vortex is a real-life, two-day indie and electronic music festival in Taos, NM. Not normally our bag of tricks, this festival brings some new life to the Taos music scene, with heavyweights like The Flaming Lips and Thievery Corporation at the top of the impressive lineup.

Tip: Taos Vortex has teamed up with the town of Taos for some impressive “adventures” during the festival week, including an “Introduction to Splaggles, Racking and Baching: A Hike,” but to get the full out-of-towner festival goer experience, I recommend creating an Airbnb listing for your home and then immediately renting it out to yourself (make sure to block out all other dates or you’ll end up on the street). Hide all of your best cookware, the majority of your toilet paper and make sure no one in the home has more than one towel. Also, buy a bunch of groceries but eat out every meal anyway.

Fish Out of Water Festival
Aug. 10-11
Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership

The second-annual Fish Out of Water Festival returns with Leftover Salmon, Dumpstapunk, David Lowery and Johnny Hickman (of Cracker), Trout Steak Revival, Poor Man’s Whiskey (performing Dark Side of the Moon), Gasoline Lollypops, Last To Know, Liver Down the River, Sweet Lillies, Ry Taylor & Friends, and The Noseeums.

Tip: While there will be no live fish at this festival, you should drink the water (perhaps precisely because there have been no fish in it). But, pace yourself with the beer is what I’m saying. I’m talking to you knucklehead. Taos Mesa Brewing has a four-beer limit for a reason. Also, have a great time with your jam band party!

Dog Days of Summer
Aug. 11, 4-10 p.m.
KTAO Solar Center Pavillion

The 9th Annual Dog Days of Summer Concert will continue with the same mission as the first eight: to raise money for Stray Hearts Animal Shelter while providing the community with some world-class entertainment. This year’s event features Americana sweethearts Secret Sisters. I think it’s no secret and they’re not really sisters, but they do make some great music. Jeff Bryant of Alpha Rev opens. There’s also a silent auction, food and a full bar.

Tip: As much good as this event does for the dogs and cats (and chinchillas) in our community, please do not bring your pet. Your pet is not a Secret Sisters fan, no matter how much you think he/she might perk up when you put on You Don’t Own Me Anymore, the group’s new album. Also, I lied earlier, they are actually sisters!

Music from Angel Fire
Aug. 17-Sept. 1
Various venues

Music from Angel Fire celebrates its 35th season, with an “in-depth look at arguably one of the greatest composers in history,” … what’s that you say? Chopin? No, you dimwit, obviously it’s Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, who only lived to 35 (the same age as Music from Angel Fire!). But have no fear Mozart haters, the program also includes works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and other composers, written when they were 35. Andrea Clearfield is this year’s composer-in-residence. Find out more at musicfromangelfire.org

Tip: You don’t have to be 35 to attend Music from Angel Fire, but … it doesn’t hurt! Actually, all ages, genders, nationalities and whatever other qualifiers you people insist upon (we’re all just people, people!) will be accepted at any of the performances.

Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance
Sept. 6-8
Kit Carson Park

Taos’s king of country, Michael Hearne, gets together with all his best musical buddies once again, with ballads and two-stepping galore. This year’s lineup includes a great mix of big-name headliners and up-and-coming singer songwriters, including Hayes Carll, Tish Hinojosa, Michael Martin Murphy, Gary P. Nunn, Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson and Beat Root Revival. More info, including the full lineup at bigbarndance.com.

Tip: You don’t have to wear a cowboy hat, but if you plan on dancing – the two-step variety – then at least have the common decency to put on some boots. The term isn’t sneaker scootin’, ya urban rube. Show some respect to the Barn Dance already!

And remember, even when there’s not a big festival, or some fancy pants tourist event going on, there’s always some live music in town, whether it’s at the Adobe Bar at the Historic Taos Inn, The Alley Cantina, The Sagebrush, Old Martina’s Hall, the KTAO Solar Center, Parse Seco, or Taos Mesa Brewing’s in-town taproom or Mothership locations. You can always find out what’s going on at the livetaos.com calendar. Keep Taos Trippy and support local music.

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