Last Month in Music
Last Month in Music: June 2013
By Mike Smith
I live in a third-floor apartment here in Albuquerque. I don’t know much about the people who live above and below me, but I know this: They love to sing when they shower. I can’t tell, through the floor and ceiling, if they’re any good, but I find it interesting—and kind of beautiful—that when people are alone, naked and apparently unaware they have neighbors, they want to sing. They want music.
To me, that seems like no coincidental metaphor. Strip away everything else, I think, and our hearts need it. They need music, and they always have it. In a cave in what’s now Germany 35,000 years ago, humans gathered to hear music emanating from a flute made of a vulture’s wing bone. And who knows how long people were banging rocks together and singing before that? As humans, we hunger for understanding. We want to know what it means to exist. We try to reconcile our own lives with the strangeness of everything—with all that can’t be put into words—and we have never found a more successful expression of the ineffable than music.
I love music, and I think it matters. I mean, sure, our whole planet will be cinders when the Sun explodes, but it matters to me right now, as it's one of the very best parts of the human experience. That said, I didn’t see a lot of live music last month, mainly because I was pretty broke, and so I didn’t go out much. I did see The Free Range Ramblers, an old-timey Santa Fe bluegrass band, play at a party on June 14 in Española, N.M., and they were fun and authentic, with banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, upright bass and high, harmonized vocals. I also saw Lady Uranium play live on June 18 in the KUNM Radio studio, but as we’re still dating, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that dreamy, smeary synth-pop set without showing blatant favoritism.
Highlights of the month for me were stellar sets by Phantom Lake and CanyonLands on June 19 at Sister. Phantom Lake is basically a local supergroup—every band member has been in many other terrific projects (including Smog)—and their style is a doom-laden, mostly instrumental variety of surf they call “surf noir.” They perform wearing eye masks, and it’s impossible for me not to dance to what they do. CanyonLands has been playing in town since 2010, and they just get better and better. They're among the strongest psychedelic rock acts in town—a huge band that crowds every stage, with an even more massive, kaleidoscopic sound—and it’s only a matter of time before they get nationally discovered.
Return of Arroyo Stomp on June 29 was supposed to be held in a concrete arroyo, but due to cloudy weather, it was held in the aptly named Hidden Park instead. More than 100 people gathered together in that large rectangular park completely surrounded by houses. Darkness seeped into the air, bands played (“Hey, it’s Joe Buffaloe!”) and the sounds of the semi-distant stage drifted to where I sat slumped against a tree and talking with awesome people—people who understood that life was better with this happening, that this fulfilled an essential desire, that the night, already gorgeous, was even more so as notes drifted up into the leaves.
Maxwell • singer-