From a lineup featuring ZZ Top, Lyle Lovett, Ben Harper, Gov’t Mule and more.
By Rick Romancito
It would be easy to shout from the dusty adobe rooftops: The Taos Summer Music Scene is Back!
It’s easy because locals and visitors had begun looking to Taos as a music destination, a rep that city fathers and promoters have been dying to tout for decades ever since the Taos Solar Music Festival followed the tumbleweeds across the mesa into the Land of Fond Memories. There was a Rocky Mountain high awareness that when summer rolls around Taos was the place to make plans to crash for great music.
During the last decade, we hosted acts like Sting, Alabama Shakes, Dwight Yoakam, Mumford and Sons, and the Wallflowers, plus returning faves Michael Frante and Los Lobos. But, then, in March 2020, we all hit a brick wall when the pandemic ground everything to a halt. Now, two long jangly years later, the virus is still with us, but the incidence of those with it have dropped significantly and treatment has made it endemic, so the state has made indoor events less restrictive and those outdoor pretty much open. So, what on tap for tunes? Here’s a rundown, starting with the big name acts …
is multi-Grammy Award winning Ben Harper who grew up in the shadow of Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne and Taj Mahal. It was the latter who gave him his first leg up in the business by asking to tour with him in the early 1990s. Often referred to as a jam band, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals flex their impressive chops playing multiple genres to powerful lyrics. Sadly, they lost their bass player Juan Nelson, who passed away at the age of 62 in 2021.
Some of the most gorgeous electronic music to come along, Rob Garza and Eric Hinton’s Thievery Corporation ensemble proves to be a powerhouse mix of dance and groove. “We always wondered: with so much incredible music in the world, why would anyone limit themselves to one genre? Well, we found out — it’s far easier to stay in one lane than to genre hop,” Hilton said in an AMP Concerts statement. Don’t go expecting a couple of guys standing behind keyboards, instead watch for a full-on performance you won’t soon forget.
June 11 Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership
Back in 2010, there was a frantic shuffle among local and out-of-town promoters to fill the perceived gap left by the Taos Solar Music Festival when it went on hiatus the previous year. In its place, the Taos Mountain Music Festival in Taos Ski Valley was born. And, it’s also when Gov’t Mule first kicked up its hooves in our neck of the woods. While that festival was short-lived, the band has continued its tradition of providing straight ahead hard-driving rock your bones will refuse to stand still for. The show also marks a triumphant return for The Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, having survived a disastrous fire in 2020 and the Covid lockdown, the popular venue is most heartily back and better than ever.
June 18 in Kit Carson Park
Legendary Texas boogie rockers ZZ Top turn up the heat in Taos this June. Sadly, it will be without Dusty Hill, 72, the band’s bassist since its inception more than 50 years ago. Word is that before he died in his sleep July 27, 2021, Hill wanted the band’s 20-year guitar tech Elwood Francis to take his place. Thus, the band’s infectious style and memorable presence will remain intact. Get ready to rock.
July 3 in Kit Carson Park
This is going to be one sizable one-two punch for the Independence Day Weekend in Taos. “A singer, composer and actor, Lyle Lovett has broadened the definition of American music,” an AMP Concert statement reads. “Coupled with his gift for storytelling, the Texas-based musician fuses elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers.” Meanwhile, Chris Isaak has found himself at home in the studio, concert stage and in front of movie cameras. The Platinum-selling and Grammy-nominated singer and actor has performed to sold-out crowds across the globe, noting his popular hit “Wicked Game” as audience’s first intro.
July 4 in Kit Carson Park
Multi-platinum award-winning artist Tanner Elle Schneider, also known as Elle King, takes the stage in a free Fourth of July concert in Taos. She has made a name for herself as a country, soul, rock and blues artist loaded with style and talent. This singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, television personality, actress and new mom is also the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider. This event is free, but register for a ticket to get updated info on the day’s activities. Tickets are also available by phone through Hold My Ticket
Aug. 19 in Kit Carson Park
“Widely ranked among the greatest live bands of their generation,” an AMP Concerts statement reads. “My Morning Jacket have long maintained their status as one of the most vital forces in American rock-and-roll. With their thrillingly expansive and eclectic sound, the Louisville-bred band has influenced an entire era of musicians, largely by staying one step ahead of mainstream pop culture and following their instincts to endless innovation.” My Morning Jacket has partnered with PLUS1 so that $1 from each ticket will go to supporting nonprofits working to secure social justice, ensure mental health care for all and confront the climate crisis.
Each of the above shows are produced by Albuquerque-based promoters AMP Concerts. For tickets and addition information, visit Amp Concerts
In addition to these headliners, expect local bands and performers to keep dancefloors hopping at the Rodeo de Taos in late June, the Fiestas de Santiago y Santa Ana July 22-24, the free Taos Plaza Live show every Thursday evening in the center of town, and rounding out the summer, the 20th annual Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance Music Festival September 8-10.
Plus, expect local nightspots to feature a varied selection of rock, folk, pop, Spanish and world music.
As of this writing, live music can be found in Taos at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, Alley Cantina, Taos Inn, The Sagebrush Inn Cantina, Rolling Still Brewery, The Burger Stand and Gutters Bowling Alley. Up in Tres Piedras, check out the Chili Line Depot; and in Red River stop by the legendary Motherlode Saloon, Texas Reds Lost Love Saloon, Bull of the Woods and the new Red River Brewery. Take a drive up toward Taos Ski Valley and stop by the Village of Arroyo Seco for music at Sabroso Restaurant, and hotly anticipated events under the Seco Live banner.
Some of these events are free, some have a nominal cover charge. All are unique and present the amazing breadth of musical talent by local entertainers. And, don’t forget, always tip your waiters.
For updates to these and other music events, check out Tempo magazine inside the Taos News or visit Taos News .