There are lawn chairs strewn across a sandy field, the sunset in front of you, Sandia Mountains behind you, people with picnic baskets, gourmet takeout, wine bottles and blankets. A singer stands on a trailer-turned-stage that’s painted to look like the New Mexican desert, complete with cacti and mountains against a blue sky. This is the Placitas Campfire Series.
Series founder Gary Roller was inspired by a scene in the 1948 Disney short “Pecos Bill” starring Roy Rogers, wherein folks sit around a fire and sing. “Campfires are where it all comes together," says Roller. "So I thought that was the heart of community. Just a campfire—that was it. It's as simple as that." Along with this idea, Roller wanted to combine art with music. So the series takes place right next to Roller’s Rockin’ R Gallery in Placitas’ Homestead Village Shopping Center.
Although Roller started this series five years ago, it didn’t have an official name until promoter and Placitas resident Tom Frouge came along. The two met when Frouge wandered into the gallery one day. They started talking about music and how to expand the series, while keeping it intimate. A July 20 show with seasoned singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa succeeded on both fronts. The Texas native and former Taos resident with more than a dozen albums under her belt blends musical styles such as country, Mexican folk and pop. Her performance fit seamlessly into the setting.
Roller says one of the goals of this series is to dissolve the boundaries between artist and audience. Listeners requested songs during Hinojosa's performance, and she obliged with no hesitation. She spoke to the crowd like they were friends. Michael Hearne, who is scheduled to play the next installment of the series on Friday, was in attendance as well. Hinojosa invited him to come up on stage when she spotted him. Hinojosa and Hearne, along with Roller, played together for most of the night. It was like sitting at a friend's house, just listening to them jam on their guitars.
About an hour in, it started pouring rain. Instead of shutting down the concert, everyone worked together to find an alternative location. The owners of Blades’ Bistro, a restaurant located in the same shopping center, allowed everyone to migrate under their patio. People set down their lawn chairs and ordered food. Some concertgoers even helped move the stage equipment. There was little separation between them and the musicians. After the show, Frouge described this atmosphere as having a punk aesthetic. "It's DIY, you know, do it yourself—we're standing up here, but we're no different from you."