The move from New York to Santa Fe was a long journey. Not just because of the miles traveled, but also because of the enormous cultural shift. Life in the city that never sleeps is one of overstimulation. On any given night, seemingly unlimited options draw the masses to be entertained. I was constantly presented with making tough choices regarding the multiple enticing options open to me on any given night.
As a music lover who spent around a decade documenting live music, I was lucky enough to spend an absurd number of hours in the sweaty, beer-soaked night clubs and legendary concert halls the city had to offer. There were times during which the number of shows I attended exceeded the number of days in the week.
In other words, as someone accustomed to overstimulation I had to adjust to my new setting when I arrived in Santa Fe last February. For a city of its size, Santa Fe does have a lot to offer, but there’s certainly voids to be filled.
That’s why the opening of Meow Wolf’s ambitious art complex provides such excitement for the city’s future. While the bulk of the focus on Meow Wolf revolves around the expansive immersive, installation “House of Eternal Returns,” its arrival also brings with it a hope for a more vibrant musical nightlife in Santa Fe.
In the past, various Meow Wolf members have brought touring acts into Santa Fe, but never with great consistency. Having their own midsize 300 capacity venue, they’ll now be able to bring in outside talent with regularity, and their upcoming opening weekend shows provide an excellent glimpse of what’s to come in the near future.
Amanda Palmer & Jason Webley w/ Jessie Deluxe
This is for the theater kids and all the vibrant outsiders that learned individuality and expression made them remarkable.
Opening night is March 18th and will feature performances by Amanda Palmer & Jason Webley, as well as local rocker Jessie Deluxe. Many are familiar with Palmer’s theatrical brand of gothic cabaret rock from both her more recent successful solo career as well as one half of popular duo The Dresden Dolls. She’s gained an incredibly devoted cult following over the past two decades, including friend and local icon George RR Martin—a major Meow Wolf contributor and supporter. Joining Palmer on stage will be longtime collaborator and fellow multi-instrumentalist Jason Webley. Sharing a mutual appreciation for vaudeville, Webley and Palmer have recorded and performed in the past as Evelyn Evelyn, a fictional duo of conjoined sisters played by Webley and Palmer. There’s no indication that this performance will be as Evelyn Evelyn, but it’s a safe bet that it will be uniquely entertaining.
The audience will also get an opportunity to see emerging local Jessie Deluxe. The high energy rock duo fronted by LA-transplant Jessie Marks (guitar, vocals) has quickly established a reputation around town as both hard working and entertaining.
The Handsome Family w/ Cloacas, Boris & The Salt Licks
This is for the mopers, the melancholy souls drifting through the rustic country landscapes seeking the detailed history the ruins of past generations.
Headlined by Albuquerque’s own The Handsome Family, part two of Meow Wolf’s three part opening weekend festivities will be decidedly more melancholy. The husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks began their journey in Chicago in the early 90s. Over the past two decades they’ve steadily released ten acclaimed studio albums of mellow country folk songs and murder ballads. Vividly detailed storytelling defines their tunes and consumes their listeners. Interestingly enough, Amanda Palmer recently recorded a cover version of their song “So Much Wine”.
Also not to be missed, Cloacas is one of Santa Fe’s greatest musical treasures. The quintet plays a masterful, intricate gypsy folk. The nuanced detail of their predominantly instrumental tunes have an undeniably unique atmospheric quality that conjures dusty old imagery.
Filling out the bill is Boris & The Salt Licks. Led by country folk traditionalist Boris McCutcheon, the band has been a longtime staple of the Santa Fe music scene, and was recently featured in inaugural issue of Live/Out Loud.
Sassmouth w/ David Last, Numbtron
This is for the ravers, the 24 hour party people who don’t acknowledge their bed until the sun comes up.
If you’re familiar with Meow Wolf, you’re likely to know that they wouldn’t conclude their weekend festivities in any other way than a dance party. And that’s exactly what they have planned in store for Sunday March 20 with an impressive lineup of DJs which consists of Dirt Girl, David Last, Numbtron, and special guest Sassmouth. To be quite honest, this isn’t my scene. I’m too much of a stick in the mud.
Beyond opening weekend, Meow Wolf has announced concerts with inventive freak folk duo Cocorosie, up and coming indie songwriter, Frankie Cosmos, and folk rockers Deer Tick. This set of shows will undoubtedly help the new Meow Wolf space burst onto the concert scene in Santa Fe in a big way, and set the foundation for what’s to come. Within these three days, they’re proving that they’ll be bringing in some necessary variety. Maybe more importantly, they’re giving some of our best local acts opportunities they don’t often see here. In a short time here, I’ve too often seen small to mid size touring acts come to town and play near empty rooms, which could have been easily remedied by the inclusion of one or two quality local acts.
As a unique performance space unlike pretty much any other, Meow Wolf has the potential of drawing to Santa Fe a plethora of talent who may have otherwise passed us by. It’s not easy for a promoter to convince touring acts to make this city part of their itinerary. In the future, this space could also offer leverage for AMP Concerts to bring in even more culturally diverse International talent to Santa Fe. I could also see the folks from Radical Abacus and High Mayhem being able to draw in some remarkable experimental/avant-garde musicians. There’s no certainty, but there’s a sense of hope that comes with the opening of Meow Wolf’s new complex.