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‘Trying to fill the void’: Rio Grande Studios hosts weekly concerts on Instagram

Songwriter Kirk Matthews performs at “Rio Grande Live,” which is filmed at Rio Grande Studios in Albuquerque. In the background is Kenny Riley of Rio Grande Studios. (Courtesy of Kirk Matthews)

The walls of Rio Grande Studios in Albuquerque are full of history.

Owners Drew Newman and Kenny Riley are adding to the story with the latest venture from the studios.

At 8 p.m. each Sunday, the studio has invited local musicians to perform an intimate performance.

The series is called “Rio Grande Live.”

“When there’s no live venues to go to, it can become a bit discouraging for music fans and for musicians,” Newman says. “For us, giving musicians the opportunity to get back in front of an audience and perform is amazing.”

Rio Grande Studios searches for the musicians.

Riley sits in with the musicians, playing instruments.

Some musicians that have performed are Ben Lawry and Kirk Matthews.

The studio took off for Mother’s Day, on May 10, but will return at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 17 with another musician on tap.

Newman says Instagram has provided a nice alternative for concerts.

“I’ve watched and popped into the concerts,” he says. “Surprisingly the numbers that we have been getting are comparable to having shows at a brewery or small venue.”

Newman says streaming also allows for a different kind of connection with an audience.

“We will take questions from people who are watching,” he says. “Although you’re not in the same room, it makes you feel like you’re the only one watching.”

Newman and Riley talked about an online concert series before the COVID-19 emergency health measures. When the stay-at-home order was issued, they decided to kick it into full gear.

“We were going to launch our YouTube channel,, and then the pandemic happened,” Newman says. “We film it with an iPhone and it’s kind of cool. It’s the way you would experience it. Every industry has some sort of impact, and luckily for the studio, we’ve been doing a lot digital and we’re still able to take on projects like this.”

Newman hopes the music series will continue after life gets back to some type of normal.

“Being able to help out musicians and give them this space is special,” he says. “It’s hard to say when things will get back, but we’re trying to fill the void.”


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