concert in the park

We drove the 175 miles north to Taos the last Saturday in July and spent the night in an inexpensive motel. In my mind, an inexpensive motel room should be about $49 – this motel room qualified as inexpensive as far as room size and features – unfortunately being Taos in tourist season on a busy weekend we paid quite a bit more. Nevertheless – I’m digressing – we went to Taos to see The Mavericks and Dwight Yoakum on a twin bill in Kit Carson Park in the center of downtown Taos.

Kit Carson Park is a big park, but it was filled to capacity this night with 6,000 concert goers all with their lawn chairs ready to be part of a big party. That’s quite a crowd for the little town of Taos. The concert staff and local police did a nice job in making everything work. At entry to the concert every back pack was searched and most of us were patted down in search of guns and knives which were prohibited. It’s cliché to talk about security as a sad commentary on the times. The security was professionally done – we just have to put up with that kind of thing these days.

Darlene and I try to attend a few music concerts each year. We love music and live music is always special even if it’s a local band that’s not very good. Music seems to unite people at the heart level – it breaks down barriers and focuses on a common joy. We’re especially attracted to outdoor concerts – there’s a vibe and sense of less structure that seems to encourage more participation by the concert goers that permeates the atmosphere and makes for more excitement than indoor events. The weather this Saturday evening in Taos was perfect. A quarter moon shone brightly through gaps in the thunder clouds as the evening progressed. Darlene put on a light jacket as darkness came, but I was comfortable in short sleeves.

We love The Mavericks – saw them live at the Peace Center outdoors a year ago in Greenville, SC. They exude a joy in performing, and an excitement level that connects the concert-goers to the performers the best I’ve ever seen. This picture was taken at the beginning of their performance – by the third song the whole crowd was standing and dancing or swaying and clapping to the beat and singing along. The Mavericks have a nationwide following, but still a lot of people don’t know them. They don’t fit any particular music genre, so have not been on the radio or TV very much. It’s the only band I know with both a lead guitar player and also a lead accordion player – lol. There’s a trumpet and saxophone player in the back also who play with a distinct Latin flare. If you look closely you can see the keyboard player decked out in a sequined red suit with a matching red hat. The hat is the shape of the one you always saw Leonard Cohen wear. As Darlene puts it, the piano player is a hoot to watch with his ongoing antics. The lead singer, Raul Malo, has a very special strong, crystal clear, in perfect pitch voice. He can sing anything. They do a little country and some ballads and some pop, both in English and Spanish, and all the while these horns are adding this Latin fusion mariachi tinged sound to whatever they might be playing. If you’re a concert goer try out The Mavericks sometime. Dwight Yoakum followed them up as the headliner to the twin bill – he was really good – mostly played his old stuff that I remember from 30 years ago. I wanted to post a picture of him, but the camera couldn’t figure out the focus in the dark with the bright, multi-colored lights. You’re probably saying why not just use the manual focus, but I’m not smart enough to know how to do that on these high-tech cameras we have today. We wouldn’t have driven to Taos to see just Dwight – the Mavericks, yes – to get both of them at one show, outdoors in a park, was pretty neat.

Taos is a tourist town with a large and thriving artist colony and market. It has always been an interesting and inviting place for me. Both the tourists and residents are a diverse bunch. It’s a haven for outdoor types, nature lovers, history seekers and old hippies – millennials to baby boomers. There is both a historic Hispanic and ancient Native American culture that has its imprint present in the town and surrounding area. The Taos Pueblo, 600 or more years old and Catholic Missions dating to the 1700s are worth touring.

There’s a restaurant scene that draws foodies much the same way as does Santa Fe, but on a smaller scale. We ate at the downtown location of Taos Mesa Brewing before the concert. We shared a wood-fired oven baked smoked prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, cherry tomato and parsley topped pizza all set down on a green pesto sauce on a thin, light, melt in your mouth crust. There was this great charring on the edges from the wood fire. They called it the Smokey Quartz pizza on the menu. It was fabulous. On other visits we’ve loved Michael’s Kitchen, Bent St Deli, Doc Martin’s, Love Apple, El Taosena, Eske’s, Ricky’s and more. Eating is part of the adventure in Taos.

Famous part-time residents include Julia Roberts and Donald Rumsfeld. A large number of earthship residences are dug into the ground on the high desert west of town. The Rio Grande River flows the length of town deep in a scenic gorge a few miles west of town. The elevation is right at 7,000 ft so even summer temperatures are moderate. We’ve been visiting Taos since the mid-1990s, both on the motorcycle and in autos. I’ve enjoyed each visit – this one was an especially good time.

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