Alibi V.28 No.19 • May 9-15, 2019 

Music Interview

Building a Monolith on the Mesa

Heavy music festival rocks Taos next weekend

Monolith on the Mesa organizers and musicians
Monolith on the Mesa organizers and musicians
Eric Williams Photography

A monolith is as indescribable as it is omnipresent, commanding the landscape and everything around it—humans included—with a vigorous strength that reinforces its structure as it expands on the vision of those who created it.

A musical monolith might be something like that, wizened yet filled up with the glories of slow but inevitable victories over a culture to which it was once subservient. A rock and roll monolith would be built from guitars and drum kits, the voice of struggle, badass bass guitars and the furure’s dark brilliance, rendered as noise and grit and good times.

And now there will be a Monolith on the Mesa. That’s the name of a three-day heavy rock music festival being held at Taos Mesa Brewing, a funky and far-out venue in El Prado, N.M.

Just north of Taos, the two-stage venue will host the first ever dreamtime exposition of all that is heavy in rock right now, and that storied time approaches rapidly. Beginning on Thursday, May 16 and continuing through Saturday, May 18, this camper-friendly hesherfest features some of the biggest and baddest bands berserking their way through our world as a monolithic musical monster.

Weekly Alibi had the distinct pleasure of speaking with event organizers and musicians at ARISE Music and Coffee, local nexus of much of Burque’s growing and blackly blooming metal scene. The folks on hand aim to represent Albuquerque in a monolithic metallic world, building a bitchin’ behemoth in a world that has otherwise taken rock for granted.

Join us as we explore the brutal heavy metal reality of rocanrol in the new world and discuss the form’s vital cultural expression while we rock out with the likes of Joel Rogers from SuperGiant, Roman Barham and Gordy Andersen of Black Maria and festival organizer Dano Sanchez. It’s guaranteed to be a head-banging time.

Weekly Alibi: Hey, Roman, could you please tell me about some of the logistics for Monolith on the Mesa?

Roman Barham: Yeah, sure. There’s an inside stage and an outdoor stage, an amphitheater. We’re going to have bands on both stages, but they won’t overlap. Concertgoers will be able to see every band that is playing. We are also having a preshow party on Thursday, May 16 and bands will be playing that night on the indoor stage. The preshow party has a separate $25 admission.

Gordy Andersen: That’s a lot of fucking music!

Gordy, why is this festival important?

Well, there hasn’t really been anything like this around here. All of the times Weekly Alibi produced Crawls were an influence on us. But there were only a couple of occasions that you had national acts among local and regional bands.

Yeah, I remember the year Henny had to write a preview of The Romantics show for Crawl.

That’s highlarious!

Anyway, I feel like the form that’s really thriving in rocanrol is the heavy one, you know, the metal. Stoner rock, too. That’s the best in rocanrol circa 2019, gentlemen.

Some of his [points to Roman] first gigs were with Ascension [Suspension] and the piercing people ...

Roman: Oh, yeah.

Gordy: We were doing shows like that. It was like the early punk days; there was a finite crowd interested in that. You and your band—except you weren’t a band yet—came to check that stuff out. I don’t know what I’m going to do at this age; I’ll have to find another antisocial youth movement that hasn’t been been co-opted by the mainstream.

I don’t think it’s quite been co-opted yet. That’s a really good thing.

Joel, you’ll attest to this because you play out more frequently than we have in the past three or four years. In that period of time, it’s gone from something esoteric to wow, huge crowds of young folks, [aged] 18 to 21.

Roman: Yeah, rock and roll is back!

Joel Rogers: We were doing Stoner Hands of Doom in Phoenix back in 2005—and playing with really awesome national acts—but only playing for 40 people.

Gordy: I have friends from out of town that love it here. They came out for Gordy Fest or Ufomammut...

Dang it! I didn’t go to that show. They’re from Italy, really damn heavy, que no?

Albuquerque blew their minds. Apparently the scene is comparable to LA or Chicago. Except you’d have to be packed like sardines into a can to see the shows we have here. It was only 15 bucks for that show!

Yeah, Albuquerque and New Mexico have become a real nexus for metal music. We even have a metal mayor!

Youth, over many generations are known for loving rock music out here.

Joel: Metal!

Gordy: All young guys usually come up through metal once they discover it, when they tune out the pop stations. Metal will never stop being one of the giant things in Albuquerque, in New Mexico, on the Rez and everywhere. The people fucking love metal out here. I’m just stoked that we’re doing this entire festival!

What are some of the bands that will be playing?

Roman: Om, The Obsessed, Dead Meadow, Wovenhand, Green Druid, Lord Buffalo, True Widow, Loom and Yatra, just to name a few. From Austin, The Well is coming out to play. And Tia Carrera!

The band, not the Wayne’s World crush, right?

Ha-ha! At the preparty gig, we’ve got a bunch of Santa [Fe] and Burque bands like Dysphotic, SuperGiant, Red Mesa, Beard, The Horned God and Prey for Kali doing sets indoors on Thursday. YOU is coming in to play.

Eric Lisausky’s band?

Yup. They’re doing some shows with that band WEEED; they’re both playing Friday afternoon. That’s what’s excellent about all of this; I was able to book the best local, regional and national acts. Bands from the East Coast, the South and California are coming out here to celebrate Monolith on the Mesa!

Gordy: That’s interesting that you mention California. A lot of this type of heavy music can be traced to the California desert.

Oh, yeah, true that. Out there by Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms.

Joel: Kyuss! Mondo Generator! Unida was another one of those bands.

That’s an odd environment. It sort of resembles New Mexico, in a way. The desert—high or low—really brings out the rock in people.

Gordy: This festival puts you right there, on the edge of the plains. When I stood there looking at the amphitheater—the background was snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains—it’s killer, breathtaking.

Joel, what does this show mean to you?

Well, a lot of this success is due to Roman. Roman’s networking over the last, like, six or seven years with all the bands who have come here—I think Gordy and Brian Banks helped start the trend of taking these bands in that were poor and on the road—has created a sense of community. Roman took all of that to a new level and just connected all of it. New Mexico can be proud of this—proud of what Roman has done.

Dano, as the brains behind the whole deal, why should this heavy metal rock and roll festival be so important to intelligent life forms in the vicinity of Albuquerque, New Mexico?

Dano Sanchez: Because it will showcase some far-out music in a far-out place. It’s the crossroads. I’ve been going to all punk rock and heavy metal shows since I was a kid, and I want to share that experience. The bands that you will be hearing have stayed their course. They’re in this for life. It’s a total lifestyle, and you’re a diehard if you’re really into it. For all of us, for all these bands, this is a labor of love—it’s a very loud labor of love. It is what it has become.

MONOLITH ON THE MESA
Taos Mesa Brewing • 20 ABC Mesa Rd. • El Prado, N.M.
Thursday, May 16 through Saturday, May 18
Tickets at monolithonthemesa.com