Spent the weekend with friends grooving on the annual Taos Solar Music Festival, where I 1) smoked some righteous weed, 2) heard some killer charts, 3) got up-to-date on many of the latest advances in solar technology and 4) conducted some of the best people-watching in the world. TSMF attracts important and popular performers. I heard Big-Head Todd & The Monsters, Paula Cole, Los Lobos, William Topley (a brit who has the resonances of Long John Baldry, though not as funny), and The John Butler Trio, along with a few lesser lights. Others there, though I didn't hear them, included Robert Mirabal, Michael Franti, Riders in the Sky, and Ottmar Liebert. I think, for a band, the trick to getting the crowd with you in a festival setting is to play 'shuffles' (think The Dead's "Trucking")...(Critical aside: BigHead Todd has a large, avid, enthusiastic following. His music sounds not that much different from Dave Matthews or Hootie: the Doobies on steroids.)
And every hippie (and hippie-wannabe) in the intermountain west was there, along with artists, bakers, bikers, climbers, rafters, mountainmen, uppies, yuppies, and even a few straights; so the costumes were outstanding, and there was LOTS of skin on display, and lots MORE suggested through the skimpiest and sheerest fabrics, which became even more revealing as they became saturated with perspiration and rain...
An outstanding weekend: my crew stayed at a unique B&B called Stewart House, out on the road to the ski basin. The accomodations were ultra-satisfactory (though the firdge had difficulty chilling the beer), and the surroundings sublime, with the Taos high plains stretching off westward towards Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla, 60+ miles west, and the rugged and imposing Taos Mountains ringing in the eastern horizon, with the Sangres stretching south. I live in Albuquerque, where there is ALWAYS the subliminal hum of traffic from the Interstate, a mile or so away from my house. At the B&B, except for the occasional car passing on the road, it was gloriously silent -- the guy using the skip loader to grade his homesite half-a-mile away didn't start til after 9 am Sunday... Plus there was no internet hookup, no television, only a cd player for non-indigenous music: glorious silence.
Another factor that added amazing dimensions to the festival was the weather. Typically, in northern New Mexico in the summer, the mornings and early afternoons are clear, and the temperatures can get pretty high. Highs in Taos this weekend were in the high 80s. It is well to remember that Taos sits at about 8000 feet (@2500 meters) and there is much much less atmosphere between one and the sun. But also, typically, by mid- to late-afternoon, clouds build up around the mountains and over the plains and can bring blustery winds, and scattered rain-showers of surprising ferocity and normally short duration. One such storm cell on Satruday afternoon produced a double rainbow over the festival grounds. It didn't rain long enough to turn the field to mud, but it was long enough to lower the temperature by 20 degrees. The static electricity show which accompanied the rains was spectacular, and one of the big pine trees that ring the Kit Carson Park was blasted during the storm by a huge lightning strike/thunderclap.
So, then, an endorsement: Make the Taos Solar Music Festival next year if you can. It's usually the last weekend in June, before it gets unbearably hot even in Taos. The bands are usually superior, the food on site ranges from vegan/indian to your basic turkey-leg music fair fare. Tara's organic ice-cream--the variety was ginger-caramel--was superb. Oh, and if carmelized onions is not the most beguiling scent to waft over a sun-soaked music venue, then add to it the cloud or two of decent ganja...i coulda died happy.
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