Event: Santa Fe Muzik Fest, New Mexico, USA
Date: Friday 10th August 2007 – Sunday 12th August 2007.
We’re spoilt in the UK, having a festival of one kind or other every week throughout the summer. Seven time zones away, however, New Mexico’s quaint pueblo town of Santa Fe is gearing itself up for its first ever major music event – The Santa Fe Muzik Festival. Even for its first attempt, the south west US state is putting its mark on the map. With six stages and a potential 164,000 maximum capacity, Santa Fe is already thinking big. Shove in a line up littered with local bands as well as superstars such as Wu Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Everclear and George Clinton and you’re guaranteed a winner, right?
Despite the event being capped a 15,000 capacity for its first year (and still not nearly filling that), there’s a convivial and excited pang in the air on Friday evening. Maybe it’s because Hip Hop heavyweights Wu Tang Clan have just hit the second stage. As security giggle like drunk schoolgirls and take mobile phone photos of RZA and co., groupies pour into the photo pit clambering to grab a bit of Wu wear. As the rappers gain the love of hippies, kiddies and greasy-haired metallers in Cradle of Filth t-shirts throughout their set, Public Enemy have got a high bar to jump. Their politic-soaked barb sends the crowd screaming in agreement between every song and new track ‘Just Like That’ ensured Flav Flav and Chuck D – in white shades with a wall clock for a necklace, and playing B-ball with his mic, respectively – got the appluase they deserved. Meanwhile, on the main stage, Rabbit In The Moon satisfied in their usual style – all glowsticks, faux dreads, fire extinguishers and techno-electro glory. Issues with curfews and campers are rife although security’s speedy golf carts and 100 watt flashlights keep everything in order with only minor disgruntlement. Mounted police and sherriff presence might seem extreme, but one can understand the precaution in place for this new event.
Saturday showcased some stellar slots from local talent Rubixzo and Kiss The Villian however it was Albuquerque natives The 2bers who grabbed most attention with their Reggae-infused organic HipHop. Vocalists Bles and Ef Sharpe fuse their flow seamlessly and, despite some technical problems, a crowd draws to listen to the accomplished performers who are tipped for big things. Oddly, karaoke is scheduled for the main stage but is mysteriously – and thankfully – cancelled, and Mexican popsters RDB treat an audience of young spanish-speaking families to a flashy, fun show. Meanwhile, George Clinton is spicing up the already steaming evening with his elaborate outfits. When his granddaughter takes to the stage spitting explicitly filthy lyrics, he grabs the mic from her before they collpase together laughing.
By Sunday morning, boys in fluourescent pink trousers and puke-stained t-shirts are offering “kumbahyahing and circle drinking” to any takers but for those not keen, DJ Elephunk is mashing up the main stage with thundering DnB. Forget church; this is how a Sunday morning should begin. In the electro tent, Arkansas DJ Kinkade spins a blinding set with a hunk of stage presence, however the same could not be said for next door in The Orb where Atomic Pink made children cry. The 3-piece girlband thrash their instruments into a style apparently meant to resemble Punk-Rock, but in actuality is a structureless, tuneless mess which lacks everything except extreme unoriginality.
After three flase starts over on the local stage, Leah Black Band finally show the crowd what they’re made of. The band’s namesake is a local DJ as well as lead vocalist. She teases the audience throughout sound problems with jokes no-one needs to hear about snowmen smelling carrots. Their Blues-infused acoustica is worth the wait though as harmonicist Danny Garcia draws and blows between Black’s delicate vocal lines, before a cover of House of The Rising Sun closes the set. Through the man-made geysers of The Misting Area (very necessary in the New Mexico heat!), 70s-Funk group War is overtaking the main stage with a Harley-Davidson revving onstage backed by saxophones, harmonicas and a cameo performance from festival director Allie Shaw with a tambourine. The younger crowd is excited for grungey old timers Everclear and the crowdsurfing begins as soon as the opening bars to ‘So Much For The Afterglow’ do. Vocalist Art Alexakis pulls fifty girls on stage to dance, and then sends some back into the crowd for apparently not being pretty enough. As Sunday evening draws to a close, most are leaving the venue with something new under their belt. Rarely does a festival of this size manage to coordinate such variety of musical genres so smoothly. Here’s one festival that’ll definitely be worth keeping an eye on… One love.