Year In Review: Beelzebub Has A Devil Put Aside For You!

This Year’s Concerts Were Devilishly Good

August March
9 min read
The Melvins
(Mackle Osborne)
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Is this the real life?/ Is this just fantasy?/ Caught in a landslide/ No escape from reality/ Open your eyes/ Look up to the skies and see…—The opening lines from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen, a tune that nearly finishes A Night at the Opera.

Yeah, the concert action was blazing, nay candent, in this past year’s version of the musical melting pot we all call home. Like a conglomeration of fine meats, vegetables, condiments and just the right amount of spicy sauce cooked to perfection and served up hot and delicious for concert-goers throughout a realm well-known for it’s musical hunger, the end result was finger-licking good.

Since by their very nature, all iterations of live music in this burg are damn fine, it’s hard enough to single out specific performances as worthy without a year-long flood of memories cascading though my neo-cortex in search of expression as a sigh, howl or grunt. But I’m gonna give it a go anyway because the stuff I remember might be the stuff you forgot.

More specifically, the stuff we remember together through this magic medium is the stuff from which dreams are made. And in a year otherwise filled with disappointment and disillusion, music and the dreams that come after ought to count for something that’s more than merely memorable; let those bright moments—perpetually playing on the backs of your eyelids—serve as a model for the light you’d like to see rise up from life’s crucible come 2017.

Goodbye, Saltine Ramblers

The Saltine Ramblers Courtesy of the artist
Well, it’s damn well past Christmas and The Saltine Ramblers are still broken up. If their last show—played loud and proud over at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) on Feb.19 of last year—was an indication of where this unit of perversely tuneful and masterfully meandering players were heading, that would have been grand. But it’s okay if that’s all we’ll ever hear … and all that other hokum that comes when you know something is too good to be over but it is, anyway.

Hello, King Buzzo

Melvins Mackle Osborne
Before the Melvins gigged at Launchpad (618 Central NW) at the end of March, I wandered down to the venue. Dale Crover was setting up his drum kit in middle of what looked like intense chaos and productivity. I flashed him the peace sign and he said, “Hey, I know you,” and gave me the finger. Buzzo was out by the bus, fiddling with his guitar. We mostly talked about the old days and the tour loop that took Burque bands and kids out to the Northwest and vice-versa back in the late 1980s. I liked the new guitars he was playing and told him so. That night after blistering sets by Melt-Banana and Napalm Death, Melvins destroyed much of the civilization that was left in this town. Or something like that. Houdini, indeed.

Surfing, Dude

Dick Dale Courtesy of the artist
Dick Dale played the guitar at Sister (407 Central NW) on May 9 with warm winds dancing through the canyon while a sliver of moon floated over Burque. At 79, Dale went through his catalogue with the aplomb of an ardent 18-year-old rocker from El Lay hoping with his hands and an axe to catch the ears of anyone who hadn’t heard his truth yet. Dale also knows a lot about non-Western music and Buddhism, aspects of his life that made for a very interesting conversation but also informed me about the origins of his poly-rhythmic intensity when I heard him play that night.

So, Pack Your Ermines

Syko Friend Courtesy of the artist
Urm … it’s been reported to me, usually in the guise of casual conversation, that all the decent rock concerts nowadays are part of a thing called a house show. That’s where they have very hep musical actions in mysterious, alluring and unlicensed places—like the Ghost Ship in Oakland. Serio. The more up-to-code you and your venue are, the more likely you’ll see recurring references to yourself and yours in this fine publication. That said, one of my favorite shows this year was at the totally safe and completely cool Tannex (1417 Fourth Street SW) in mid-June. A bill combining the watery, measured and mesmerizing work of Syko Friend (Sophie Weil) was intertwined with the work of local and notable post-PoMo experimentalists, including Marya Jones and Mauro Woody—for an effect that wrapped the faraway and fantastic into a subtle fabric of sounds.

The Roaring Nineties

Salt-N-Pepa Courtesy of the artist
On June 19 of the year 2016 we loaded ourselves into a Chevrolet Suburban outfitted with a 400-watt Kenwood sound system, a case of Mountain Dew and two dozen Allsup’s burritos (among other essential items) and headed out to the Sandia Casino and Resort Amphitheater (30 Rainbow NE) to check out a nostalgia tour focused on hip-hop’s expansion into the realm of pop music in the early to mid 1990s. The place was packed for the “I Love the 90’s Tour!” Tone Lōc was still totally with it, and Salt-N-Pepa absolutely killed, with Spinderella at the controls and both emcees flowing like the future found them just fine. Predictably Vanilla Ice still sucked. But still. Damn.

Exquisite Power!

The Women behind “Exquisite Power” Coourtesy New Mexico Jazz Workshop
This yearly signature outing by the New Mexico Jazz Workshop jumped and jived into my narrow and generally machine-like range of attention when I realized it featured some of this region’s most noted singers. More importantly, these artists from many generations and genres were performing under the baton of one of Burque’s most engaging, stylish and damned talented players and bandleaders, Emerson Susan Corley. The recital at the Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater (2000 Mountain NW) was elegant, presented with a panache rarely reserved for cool jazz in New Mexico. The crisp clear sound of a knowledgeable and playful band raised the engagement level of a concert that, as far as jazz goes, totally rocked. And as each singer proceeded through the program, it became abundantly clear who rules the scene around here.


Russell James Pyle Courtesy of the artist
When Russell James Pyle went down a different trail than his bandmates in The Porter Draw, it was to undertake a vision quest. During the past year, Pyle has matured into an authoritative voice in American music with his honest and piquant storytelling, his ability to maneuver his guitar into sonic spaces that describe vast places out in the world as well as intricate interior landscapes. His live work, solo or with backing band is unforgettably engaging. Pyle’s performance on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) was demonstrative of the passion and gravitas the singer-songwriter brings into play. With melodic flourishes and keen observations under his command, Pyle has a bright future here, there and possibly everywhere.

The Handsome Pawn Drive Family

The Handsome Family: Rennie Sparks (L) and Brett Sparks
I think that the music that Rennie and Brett Sparks make eclipses much of the material found in popular music cannon—and possibly within academic folk music literature as well—but never let on about that in case you run into the Handsome Family while walking through Nob Hill. Further, the compositions of Brett’s younger brother Robert Darrell are also fiercely formal yet fabulously fluid when manifested with the band Pawn Drive (which also features some of Burque’s best bluegrass players including former jazz-rocker Jason Fink). The chance to see both of these outfits in action is part of a rare and rocking reality, but one that came to be, albeit briefly, when the Sparks brothers and their respective ensembles took the stage at Launchpad (618 Central SW) on Saturday, Nov. 12. Dudes, let me know about the Gargantuans reunion, please!

Year In Review

Those are the ones I remember, where I wasn’t in a jazz trance or preoccupied with the effects of moonlight on musicians’ improvisational choices.

I missed the King Khan and BBQ Show, Pouya, Rubi Ate The Fig, Fat Nick, ZZ Top, the Black Maria resurgence and probably a hundred more; that’s an idea that I only accept because the local musical cauldron I’ve been dealing with all this time is so damned deep; it looks like it goes on forever.
Beelzebub Has a Devil Put Aside for You!


Mackle Osborne

The Saltine Ramblers

Courtesy of the artist


Mackle Osborne

Dick Dale

Courtesy of the artist

Syko Friend

Courtesy of the artist


Courtesy of the artist

The Women behind “Exquisite Power”

Coourtesy New Mexico Jazz Workshop

Russell James Pyle

Courtesy of the artist

The Handsome Family: Rennie Sparks (L) and Brett Sparks

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