Last Month in Music
Last Month in Music: October 2013
By Mike Smith
Sam West Photography
Last month, on Oct. 4, I took a road trip north, with Marisa Demarco of Bigawatt and my girlfriend Mauro, to attend a night of the 3rd Indie/Punk/Electro Music Festival, on the edge of the Rez, in Shiprock. This very worthwhile festival took place in a chilly little warehouse called The Mod, with a diverse crowd that included people who never took their bandannas off their faces, drifters who stood and swayed as their packs leant against the walls and a middle-aged heckler who kept talking loudly about how amazing he was at guitar while Albuquerque’s Bigawatt played her thrillingly innovative set of noise, noise-soul and noise-rap—twisting knobs, running strands of recording tape through an electrified glove, and merging children’s toys with loop pedals. Bigawatt is absolutely fascinating to watch. See her any way you can—on her own, or with her band. Just see her. Ryan Dennison, of Gallup and Fort Wingate, tunefully channeled Buddy Holly, singing original songs with an electric guitar and so many layers of distortion that Best Coast would have been proud. Horse Thief—an inventive laptop DJ from “the Great Unknown, the Fourth World” and Farmington—got the room on its feet for his overwhelming, involving brand of self-described “joyless ambient” music, everyone swaying and moving as experimental films played over and around him as a synesthetic part of the music. Sara Century, of Denver and beyond, brought the same intense energy to her barefoot performance—screaming and singing over shimmery, pre-recorded beats—that she brought earlier to physically attacking the guy who kept heckling Bigawatt. I believe in nonviolence but still, that seemed like a service to us all.
The best part about Albuquerque’s music community—aside from the music—is the community.
Later, on Oct. 8, I went to a very different show, my first show at the badly named ArtBar by Catalyst Club, to see Seahorn and The Blurts. Seahorn—formerly the Great Depression, and this time with Mauro on keyboards—brought the blissfully trance-inducing, smeary, psychedelic, guitar-driven rock. Then The Blurts reminded me of a mostly acoustic reinvention of classic, shambling FM radio pop bands—but I liked them best, because I knew what a lot one of their singers has been through this last year—with a young child who’s had severe health problems—and it just made me so happy to know that her kid was improving and that she herself was feeling buoyant enough to return to the stage. (You rock, Peri.) The best part about Albuquerque’s music community—aside from the music—is the community. All you people are terrific.
The record-burning alarmists were and are right about rock-and-roll. Way right. It is sexual. It is dangerous. They’re just wrong that any of that’s a bad thing.
And finally, on Oct. 31, I attended Halloween Resurrection at Sister, a themed event involving local talent bringing past legends back to life. Bud Melvin and Jessica Billey, of Phantom Lake and the Grave of Nobody’s Darling, dressed like Lou Reed and Nico and covered the songs of The Velvet Underground—reinventing those songs with electronic beats and experimental arrangements. This was just after Lou Reed died, so the performance seemed especially timely, and it felt important. Those songs meant so much to so many of us, and it was a nice chance to reflect on them—and to dance and get rowdy. Full Speed Veronica covered The Ramones—with a female singer in a Joey Ramone wig—completely bringing their speed and intensity and riling the crowd to a feverous sort of madness. And Teenage Werewolves—among the wildest rock and roll spectacles in town, and oh god, do I love them—covered the songs of The Cramps, and their show was, as always, just epic: as frenzied and unpredictable as ever, and way more sexed-up than I remembered it ever being—with elements of burlesque and striptease, musicians thrusting the necks of their guitars between the spread legs of the barely clothed dancing girls, Jack Atlantis in tight leather pants (for those in the crowd into that) and a literal-minded toy gun performance of “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns.” Their set was a great reminder that rock and roll is at, at its roots, sexual. Rock just wants to get it on with you. It does. Rock and roll’s name, before being popularized and rendered more innocent, comes from slang euphemism for sex. Its beats are reminiscent of it. It shares in sex’s basic desires—motion, abandonment, rebellion, wildness. The record-burning alarmists were and are right about rock-and-roll. Way right. It is sexual. It is dangerous. They’re just wrong that any of that’s a bad thing.
These are some of the shows I saw in October. And I had a million reasons not to go out to any of them. I was tired. Good TV shows exist. I like to read. Sitting alone and eating is enjoyable. But let me tell you this: I would have missed out. And there are just as many reasons not to stay in as there are not to go out. There’s weirdness and culture, and trouble of every kind; there are wonderful people and the songs you love, and the songs you don’t yet know to love but will. Anything can happen, but only if you meet those possibilities halfway. And you should.
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