Monday, March 23, 2015

A Brief History of Local Music

Starting with the founding of Norman Petty's studio in Clovis and on through the trials and travails of Albuquerque's exiled “big hair & spandex” headbangers on Sunset Blvd. It all makes a little more sense laid out in chronological order.
This is by no means a definitive listing of Albuquerque/Santa Fe/New Mexico bands and musicians. I've touched on the highlights by using a simple criteria (local bands or artists that achieved some regional or national fame while leaving behind at least a modest catalog of recordings)

This timeline ends at 1990, the bellwether year for local music. It was the start of something totally new and exciting and it all began with the break-up of Femme Fatale that same year. Not since The Fireballs staked out a claim on the national music charts had a band from New Mexico raised such a ruckus outside of the state. Their initial success led to a score of New Mexico musicians hitting I-40 in ragged caravans, heading west to El Lay, the hair farmer equivalents of John Steinbeck's Okies of yore.

The demise of Femme Fatale indirectly led to a redirection of efforts by local musicians. If a band that had everything going for it.... sex appeal, major label, MTV, big riffs, big hair. (all skillfully presented with a glossy veneer not usually associated with local acts) Couldn't make a go of it in Los Angeles, then who could? Reality check, lowered expectations... call it what you want, but it did usher in a new movement in local music..

Meanwhile back on the ranch, Joe Bufalino and Associates, a booking agency, still had a firm choke hold on local live music venues. Nobody could play anywhere in the Duke City without signing a one year contract with Bufalino and paying him up to a 15% fee for his “services” Cookie cutter cover bands (known locally as “Buff bands”) were losing their appeal. The emphasis now was on original compositions, stripped down instrumentation, no more glam rock bells & whistles.... come as you are. Local bands started finding alternative venues, sidestepping Bufalino while playing to a more experimental group of listeners than your average inebriated barfly.

You could say that in fact there were numerous variables at play in Albuquerque in 1990. The DYI, Indie, LoFi movement was sweeping across the country. Arena rock was waning in popularity and some Seattle based bands were starting to make some noise. It was rock and roll's last big wave, the one before the world wide web became a matter of fact and a way of life. Between 1990 and 1999 there was an explosion of bands on the local music scene, more than ever before. The size and scope of that timeline is mind boggling, so it'll have to wait for another day.

Just as Internet Explorer is the browser that you use to download a better browser, Albuquerque is the city where musicians hone their skills before moving on to bigger and better things. Eventually the same trail that led local musicians to the Golden State, forked to the northwest as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle became more desirable launchpads (along with Austin, Tx. and to a lesser extent, New York City) Despite this continuous exodus of talented musicians, the music scenes in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe keep right chuggin' along. Enduring, self sustaining and never boring. Coming from the most humble of starting points, Albuquerque now garners a well earned reputation as a “hip music locale” I must say, that both 'Burque and Santa Fe wear it well.... oh yes they do!