I don’t go to Santa Fe to see shows often. The only other time I’ve traveled there for a show was to see my favorite band for the first time early 2015, and that was at a venue on the edge of Santa Fe, so you can say I’m not familiar with their scene. The two venues I’ve been to there are pretty similar and notably different from Burque places; they’re older and have a more traditionally New Mexican aesthetic, have more seating and there’s a noticeable range of age in concert-goers.
My friend and I walked through a passageway and entered Skylight Santa Fe into their bar. We got our beers and headed up to the top floor of the place and sat above and to the left of the stage. I looked at the crowd and saw the wide range of ages amongst the concert-goers; people in their teens to their mid-40s were all eagerly waiting for the show to begin. The crowd gathered as the first band, Cayucas, began playing onstage but left a large space between them and the band.
Cayucas is a fraternal duo from southern California which is obvious when you hear them. The excellent SoCal lo-fi, surf pop band was joined by a bassist and drummer for their tour. Their calm melodies are fantastic, especially when combined with mellow vocals and a subtle sense of nostalgia thrown in every so often instigated by the distinct surf rock reverb. During their song “High School Lover” lead singer, Zach Yudin, got off the stage and slow danced with an audience member. When he got back on stage he said “I wish I could go back to high school because I’d be crushing it.”
Opening bands aren’t given enough credit. Even more so, the bassists of opening bands aren’t given enough credit. The touring bassist of Cayucas—who I didn’t catch the name of—is so skilled and extraordinary: he could weave in and out of working with the drums and guitar while still being able to throw in solos flawlessly.
During the wait for the headliner, Surfer Blood, the crowd had abandoned the gap between themselves and the stage. The band appeared and began without introduction; the cheerful melody joint with understated, gloomy lyrics and monotone vocals (and occasional shouting) is why people love Surfer Blood. The steady backbeat of the drums was mesmerizing. While Surfer Blood has a calm stoicism vibe, it’s clear that they enjoy being on stage and performing.
The crowd was much more energetic and loud after Surfer Blood took to the stage. I don’t go to many “mellow” rock shows, but it was interesting to see how some of the patrons danced as if it were a punk show instead of a chill California-sound show.
At the end of the night the two bands combined on stage and performed three covers. They all randomly interchanged their instruments between songs so everyone got a turn, but since it was Cayucas last show they got more time. Both bands seemed to have a ton of fun and the crowd did even more so.
During the last song, many of the teens in the audience went onstage and danced with the band. My friend and I left quickly into the cold night as we discussed heathen youth and came back home to Albuquerque.
Launchpad was graced with Yung Knowledge, YAK Boy Fresh, BINGX and Stevie Stone on Sunday, Nov. 22. Yung Knowledge officially began the show. The duo were exceptionally charismatic and engaging. Easily captivating the crowd, they initiated audience participation and used that as a flawless segue between songs. YAK Boy Fresh (Y.ou A.lready K.now) was backed by a band – atypical for his work – but they all had incredible chemistry. YAK Boy Fresh’s flow was effortless, rhythmic and rousing. BINGX was extraordinarily entertaining and receptive to audience members. His high energy was relentless and unmatched.
Stevie Stone took the stage after a short film showing him escaping from a mental institution looking like Hannibal Lecter. Working with DJ Picasso, he was commanding and powerful. Stone’s passion for his music was easy to see and feel. He wanted his fans at Launchpad to know he appreciated them. He performed songs primarily from Strangeulation Vol. II; the crowd was wild and reflected Stone’s enthusiasm. With all the excitement and energy he was putting into the show, Stone took small breaks at the beginning of some songs before jumping up and dancing through his set. He invited a few groups of people from the crowd to join him, his touring crew and the other musicians on stage. All who joined him were eager to do so.
Stevie Stone is an unpretentious performer with outstanding content and flow. He subtly harmonizes with the music. He can stay in tempo but change rhythms with ease. His voice is profound and authoritative. When he’s on stage, there’s no misidentifying the drive and expertise he exudes.
After the show, Stevie Stone stayed to interact with fans. While his music is aggressive and direct, Stone was very kind and gentle with his fans. I watched him talk with and take photos with at least 20 people before I left. When I talked to him he was thoughtful and was genuinely concerned that I enjoyed myself. I talked with a few of the other musicians at the show; they were the same way. I felt welcomed and very pleased to see them all.
I loved watching the crowd and their energy which reflected the performers. Being unfamiliar with all of these musicians and their work, I looked to the crowd for guidance. The group was enthusiastic, wild, blissful, and passionate. Everyone was happy to be there, perhaps most of all Stevie Stone.
I was surprised at the amount of people that were at Stereo, some of the people I talked to before the show didn’t know a band was going to play but by the end of the first song most of the people were dancing. The electro-funk trio that completes Planet Booty was extraordinarily energetic and charismatic during their performance. Seeing them reminded me of seeing a friend’s show. It felt personal when they would motion at individuals, dance with people and chatted and (especially) approached and thanked individuals for coming to the show and the entire audience collectively.
If they weren’t wielding an instrument, they stood at the front of the stage facing the crowd trying to get everyone to “bounce that ass” but not in a disrespectful way like I’ve encountered at venues before. Planet Booty wanted everyone to have as much fun as they were having. I’m not sure that was possible because, it seemed to me that Dylan Charles Germick (vocals, trumpet, beats), Josh Cantero (vocals, keyboard, trombone) and Rob Gwin (bass, percussion, software) were having the time of their lives. Germick mainly sang at the front of the group but was joined by Cantero often. Germick is exceedingly personable and effectively gets the crowd going. Cantero would return to his keyboard and sing when needed, but was unfailingly animated the entire show. Gwin was the heartbeat, keeping them all together and moving forward, all while maintaining as much enthusiasm as he had at the beginning. I was stunned by all of them sustaining the very high energy they begun the show with.
Their vigor and passion is incredible and virtually unmatched by any show I’ve been to (shows that I’ve paid to see!). They all are performers and they are ready to party with their fans. Germick would join the crowd throughout the show to dance with the audience, forming a delightful relationship and, overall, loving vibe with the crowd. Their proclaimed genre is “Sweat” and I felt that by the end of the show. Afterwards they mingled with the crowd for as long as they could, but they had to head out for their next gig in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 24. I hope they come back to Albuquerque soon so I can see them again.