Alibi V.29 No.6 • Feb 6-12, 2020 

Arts Interview

The Tears of a Clown

A Family Band for a Clown Funeral

Hondo Baca
Rodeo clown Hondo Baca
Photo by Clarke Condé

When a family of rodeo clowns lose their parents, the only thing they can do is to pull together as a family, put the band back together and raise money for a proper clown funeral. After a number of drama-filled performances in Albuquerque, Darlin’ and the Rodeo Runners have raised enough to give their beloved Ma and Pa the grand send-off that rodeo clown royalty deserves. Son and band leader Hondo Baca wants his parents’ funeral to be a celebration of their lives, so he and the family have invited the community to the funeral at their parent’s home located inside the Tricklock Performance Laboratory. Weekly Alibi sat down with Bacca to talk about his parents, clowning and what people can expect onstage at a rodeo clown’s funeral. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Weekly Alibi: I first I wanted to express my condolences. How is your family of clowns holding up?

Hondo Baca: You know, we've had our ups and downs as a family. I think everyone's been dealing with the loss of Ma and Pa in their own personal ways. We spend a lot of time together, so that I think that helps in some ways and in other ways, it kind of makes things a little bit more tense, but we're pushing through. We're about ready to put Ma and Pa to rest for good back at the family house.

Rodeo clowning is a tough business. Do you find strength in the work? Has that helped you cope?

Well, I've been off the past several months. We go on break in October from the rodeo. It’s given us some good amount of time to prepare things and to work with the family and to get the band back together. That work has definitely been a good way to cope. I mean, focusing on remembering all these old songs we used to play back on the farm and getting everybody to back in town again. We've been writing a bunch of music, relearning some old stuff and playing tribute to our parents through music.

Albuquerque has a lot of bands that are full of clowns.

I have heard that.

However your band, being a family band of rodeo clowns, is unique. How have you been received?

You know, I think a bunch of people here in the city are a little freaked out by it. We’ve played some interesting bills the past few months. We played one at the Moonlight Lounge that was kind of mixed in with some hard rock bands and some punk rock bands. The fans were kind of thrown off. They didn't quite know what was going on, but they were pretty intrigued. They stuck around through the whole thing. Some even started dancing. It's kind of nice to mix it up and play these different scenes that we don't usually get to play in here in the city.

I know your family has gone through a lot of effort to raise money for your parents’ funeral and you've invited a lot of people to join in a celebration of their life. What can people expect?

Well, they can expect a beautiful service. Our brother Eddie, he’s gonna lead the service and the sermon. We're gonna have food for people. We're gonna have a Ma and Pa's chili. They left their famous chili recipe for us to pass on and share with everybody. Some good dessert dishes, too, I believe we're going to be having. We're planning on having plenty of music there. We playing all of our songs for Ma and Pa. Everyone's got their own kind of unique way of offering up their thoughts and prayers. I'm looking forward to that.

Is there a favorite song that your parents enjoyed that the band performs?

Ma's favorite song was “Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” It's a popular song. She loved that song. It's been nice being able to pick up the strings and play some Willie Nelson.

What about your father?

What's that? My dad? Oh, my dad, he had so many songs. He has this one song called “Country Bar.” It's a song that he wrote. It's a hoot. It's a drinking song. A lot of dad's favorite songs were drinking songs. It's a fun song to join along in and make sure you have something in your hand to cheers throughout the whole song.

Do you have a favorite memory of your parents you'd like to share?

I must've been like 17 years old and Pa, he was feeling kind of under the weather that day. We had a big rodeo out in Capitan. I had to fill in for my Pa. It was as the first time that I ever stepped in and I was very nervous because being the head rodeo clown is a lot of responsibility. It's a lot of work, a lot of talking, getting the spirits up and keeping the audience entertained in between different events.

Let alone not getting gored.

Ma was there the whole time, guiding me through the whole thing, leading me step by step, teaching me how to do what I'm doing still to this day.

Family Band for a Clown Funeral

Blackout Theatre Company
Opening Feb. 6 at 8PM
Tricklock Performance Laboratory
110 Gold Ave. SW
Tickets: Pay what you decide
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