Mixin’ it up
By Ariana Kramer
Photo: The highly popular Music on the Mesa Festival will be back the first weekend in June. Photo by Rick Romancito.
Music on the Mesa is a family-friendly music festival featuring top-notch entertainment in the Americana, bluegrass, progressive folk and related genres. Held at Taos Mesa Brewing’s Mothership, the venue boasts an indoor stage as well as two outdoor stages in a spectacular setting with views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
This year’s festival highlights include Railroad Earth, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Elephant Revival, Rising Appalachia, Grace Askew and more. Walking Rain Productions, Like A Boss and Roots & Wires are presenting this year’s Music on the Mesa Festival.
The three-day music fest takes place Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 4, at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off of U.S. Highway 64, (575) 758-1900. Tickets are available through taosmusiconthemesa. com. Prices are $125 for all three days; $50 for Friday; $55 for Saturday and $60 for Sunday. Children 12 and under are half price at the door; and ages under two are free.
Onsite camping is available for $20 per person or $40 per RV for the entire weekend.
In the past, Music on the Mesa has featured straight-up Americana artists. “We’ve mixed it up a bit this year, says Walking Rain’s Stephen Plyler. “Our followers are still going to love what they hear,” he adds. “We have a lot of standard Americana artists, but are mixing in progressive folk and bluegrass.”
Here is a sampling of some of the bands on the Music on the Mesa roster: Vocalist, songwriter and renowned pedal steel guitarist, Robert Randolph grew up in a church environment. He heard no secular music throughout his childhood and teenage years. But, he and his family reveled in the gospel tradition of sacred steel, playing their hearts out in the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey.
When he discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene as a young man, Randolph’s music underwent a transformation as he let himself be influenced by secular genres. “Got Soul,” Randolph’s label debut with Sony Masterworks, is admired by Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks. Randolph has played with each of these great musicians.
Also, hailing from New Jersey is Railroad Earth, headed up by songwriter Todd Schaeffer. The name of the band comes from a Jack Kerouac short story, and their Americana roots music pulls in everything from bluegrass and rock and roll to jazz and Celtic influences. Railroad Earth is known for their live improvisational skills, so expect some serious jam band fun.
Elephant Revival blends gypsy, Celtic, Americana and folk music for a sound that brings crowds flocking. The five-piece band from Nederland, Colorado, has received praise from National Public Radio for their “intuitive rhythms augmented with unexpected hand claps; expansive acoustic instruments with tight, haunting vocals; gut-level intuition; Celtic dancing grooves; and plenty of progressive roots music.” The New York Times says, “If this [Elephant Revival] doesn’t make you smile, something is wrong with you.”
Taoseña Lucy Melamed saw the band at last year’s festival and said of the experience, “Elephant Revival was awesome. They were really good — hypnotic and powerful. It was really a special show.”
Sisters Chloe and Leah Smith form the core of Rising Appalachia. The Smith sisters are multi-instrumentalists who integrate fiddles, banjos, bodhran, spoken word and harmonic vocals into their music. They are backed by drums, kalimbas, congas, didjeridoo, tabla, spoons, washboard and more. Grounded in Appalachian folk and roots music, their sound also wraps itself around soul, world, gospel, jazz and hip-hop. The band has been voted “Atlanta’s Best Folk Act” by Creative Loafing, and has toured throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, India and the United States.
Wayne “The Train” Hancock has been compared to Hank Williams, Sr., by none other than Hank Williams, III, who said, “The only other guy who has more Hank Williams in him than me is Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. Inspired by Hank Williams, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and the big band era, Hancock plays upbeat honky-tonk. Decorated with a tattoo that says, “Play ‘til you Die,” Hancock aims to have a good time, and he takes his audience with him.
The dynamic singer Grace Askew is a Music on the Mesa regular — she loves Taos, and Taos loves her. She calls her style “bluntry” (blues and country) and howls, squeals and belts out her songs. “Killer slide guitar player with a sultry swagger,” reviewed Los Angeles Magazine; “Astoundingly defiant,” wrote SPIN.
Music on the Mesa is making a name for itself as a three-day festival of highquality music from start to finish. The producers have previously heard each of the acts live and in person, so they know they are not only gifted musicians, but also entertaining performers.
“Our main commitment is that the entire day you’re going to hear great music,” says Plyler. “If you’re there during the day you’re going to hear some of the best acts you’ll ever hear. And, if you’re there for the headliners, you will hear some of the best music you’ll ever hear.”
If you want to go to this year’s Music on the Mesa, don’t wait on buying tickets. Plyler says tickets are selling at a faster clip than last year. There’s a chance they might sell out. For more information, visit taosmusiconthemesa.com.