Last month I got part way into my playing trip to Farmington, N.M., over the Fourth of July weekend, wife in tow. I’ll finish it off this month, plus tell about my return trip to the same venue in the Four Corners region.
Remember, I had snuck her into the motel room, saving 10 bucks, or was it 15? That wasn’t going to be possible two nights in a row, so I fessed up to the owner and he hit me up for the extra cash for the second night. It was one of those classy places that every 10 feet had a sign that read “ABSOLUTELY NO VISITORS.”
Actually, it was sort of fun, a little scary, you felt you were getting away with something.
Usually when I play in Farmington, I head back early Sunday morning. Two nights is plenty. This time I booked a third gig at a place on the way home, or so I thought. It was actually farther north, up the beautiful San Juan River valley, way out in the middle of nowhere.
As we drove farther up with the sandstone bluffs on one side and the river on the other I thought, “Who the #%^> is gonna’ come all the way up here to listen to music?” Actually, the venue is in a pretty setting and people do come. I was pleasantly surprised.
After the Sunday gig we drove across to Cuba and parked it for the evening. On that drive back the mountain range to the north wasn’t smoking and burning like it had been two days before on the way up. The fire around Los Alamos was getting contained, or burning itself out.
The drive home was uneventful and a short month later it was time to do it again. By that time I was feeling better about my solo show; I’d been working with my Loop Station more, a device that allows me to record little licks, rhythms and progressions, then play over the top of them. I don’t use it all the time at gigs, but it provides a nice change of pace from my solo pieces, plus I can make up a full (or very subtle) sounding background for my sarod, ruan, oud and now sitar pieces.
Sometimes I’ll just tap out a beat on the box of my guitar and record it, that’s enough. Then single lines have a little more accompaniment to interact with.
Actually, I’ve done so many solo gigs over the years, and played with so many fine percussionists – lately Ricardo Amaya and JD Davis – and bass players – Greg Gonzalez and Eric Unsworth – that my sense of time is pretty refined even solo, but it’s surprising how just a hint of a pulse in the background will beef things up.
This time we stayed at a different motel, but I think I found an even better one for the next time, a block from downtown, where on a previous trip I’d snared at a thrift store a set of pianist Jose Iturbi 78s entitled “Music To Remember – From The Life of Chopin.” Ahh, the perks of traveling!
Saturday between gigs we cased out Mesa Verde National Park west of Durango; we’ll make a day of it there on a future trip.
There’s a music store in Durango, Canyon Music, that looked interesting (they had a sitar in the window!). It was closed – the owner was having a birthday – but it’s also on my To Do list.
Hey, some news: My quest for Brazilian player Baden Powell’s guitar has had some developments. Next time I’ll fill you in on the details.