From cozy, almost underground, spaces where listeners sit on the floor to a brewery building and patio hoping to reopen with rocking outdoor shows, Santa Fe is seeing something of a resurgence of music venues these days.
The trend may have kicked off with Skylight Santa Fe opening its eclectic nightclub/event center downtown in the summer of 2014, then been enhanced by The High Note opening about a year later and a couple of blocks away with a menu of jazz and “adult contemporary” tunes.
But it has since spread south and west, with venues popping up like mushrooms, including a plan to rehab and reopen the former restaurant and music space at Santa Fe Brewing Co. It was slated for its first show March 19, but that event has since been delayed, with the county requiring additional work to meet the facility’s new zoning category.
Brian Lock, owner of what will be called The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Company, located on N.M. 14 south of Interstate 25, said he’s now hoping for a June opening.
“I feel, in Santa Fe, since the Paolo Soleri closed down, there’s been a real need for an outdoor venue,” he said.
The Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, which closed in 2010, had attracted a variety of name acts to the site on the Santa Fe Indian School campus and left a gaping hole in the local music scene when it was shuttered.
Called by a variety of names under lease to different operators, the Santa Fe Brewing Co. space had offered both food and drink, along with indoor and outdoor concerts over recent years, but Lock said he took it over in December and began to remake it into a significant music venue – minus the restaurant. Instead, food trucks would be invited to set up and feed visitors, he said.
The brewery’s beverages will be served inside, along with local wine and cider, and a skywalk is planned to connect the brewery and concert venue, hence “The Bridge” as a name for the place. The skywalk will allow customers to cross over the parking lot while remaining in the business’s officially licensed premises for alcohol sales.
Lock said he has torn out the kitchen and is remodeling the indoor space to be more music-friendly. “It’s a little more open than it was before,” he said.
Plans call for the ability to accommodate 300 music fans inside and up to 1,000 for outdoor concerts.
Improvements yield Center Stage
Over on Camino de los Marquez, a bit south of downtown, the stage at the Center for Spiritual Living, which had hosted some jazz and other concerts in the past, has gotten a makeover and was launched in December as Center Stage Santa Fe.
Lydia Clark, musician and artistic director, said she and her collaborators at the center wanted to expand the usage of the space. “We really had a larger vision of what we wanted to use the facility for,” she said.
Part of the motivation might have been to boost revenue, but also a shared dream of creating a space that focuses on the performers and the performance.
Restaurants and bars, which often host live entertainment, are looking to sell food and drink, and aren’t as considerate of the music itself, Clark said. “We really saw a need for a true performance space,” she said.
Probably the best, but somewhat smaller, parallel in Santa Fe would be GiG Performance Space on Second Street, an intimate room that has the audience seated in rows of chairs focused on the stage.
Center Stage resulted after work was done to improve acoustics and lighting, as well as to add new and improved equipment, Clark said. The venue also offers the option for producing a professional audio recording or video of the performance, as well as offering live streaming of an event, she said.
Shows for now have averaged about two a month, but “I would like to see something every weekend,” Clark said.
The majority of the acts have been local, but the venue is also working with AMP Concerts and Southwest Roots Music – which in a recent email called Center Stage “our favorite new venue” – to bring in touring groups. It also can house simple theatrical performances.
The 165-seat venue recently hosted a CD release performance by local singer-songwriter Coco O’Connor and a fundraising performance of “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by For Giving Productions. Two nights of concerts by pianist George Winston drew a sell-out crowd one night and filled three-quarters of the seats on another, Clark said.
Offering exposure to new music
Head farther south and west in Santa Fe, and you will find some bare-bones, almost pop-up performance spaces, some operating a bit underground and avoiding some of the bells and whistles that would alert zoning inspectors.
One is Ghost at 2889 Trades West Road in the Siler District, which calls its events “public meetups” on its Facebook page and mentions a $5 donation.
Meanwhile, Alysha Shaw, who in January had an opening party for her warehouse space dubbed Zephyr at 1520 Center Drive, off Airport Road, also gives notice of upcoming events on Facebook and doesn’t sell tickets or charge admission – but donations for the bands are welcomed.
“We’ve done five or six shows at this point,” she said in early March. “We have three or four lined up in the next month and a half.”
Shaw said she first nabbed the unit for Zephyr as a rehearsal space, where this member of the Balkan music group Rumelia could work on some of her own compositions. In the process, she has linked with others looking for rehearsal or performance space, as well as a place for local artists to display their work.
“I’m really interested in creating community through art,” she said, adding that she would also make it available to classes and workshops.
She refers to the concerts there as “private music shows.”
“There always have been alternative spaces, from some generous person’s living room to kind of warehouse pop-up spaces,” she said. “I’m not the only person meeting this need.”
Shaw said she doesn’t seek any certain genre of music for Zephyr but, by its own nature, it attracts people who aren’t very well known. “I’ve been blown away by the diversity of new music,” she added.
On Tuesday, she’s bringing in an eclectic mix that includes ¡Zorra!, a new collaboration between singer-songwriter and visual artist Marjiel Danse and Todd and the Fox frontman Todd Eric Lovato, with electronic music in a diverse mix of sounds; Denver-based quartet Flaural, with a blend of new wave and psych pop; and Paris Mancini and Grisha Krivchenia, with an experimental classical performance.
Attendees must RSVP at facebook.com/zephyrmusicandart.
More music in Siler District
Back in the Siler District, Meow Wolf is opening its much-heralded new arts complex next weekend, including a performance space that will accommodate about 300 people and will host a series of bands throughout the March 18-20 opening. Several other concerts are already scheduled past that weekend, from D.J. sets to Deer Tick, an alt-rock band from Providence, R.I.
Also in the district, Radical Abacus, 1226 Calle de Comercio, has sprinkled musical performances in with its gallery space, while Fresh Santa Fe, at 2855 Cooks Road, Studio A, has evolved beyond its gallery space to offer a number of performance events, including music. Artistic director Gregory Waits said the space is most likely to host fresh, new, experimental music and jazz – “sort of the cutting edge of where music might want to go.”
That arts space, launched last June, can accommodate 40 to 50 people indoors, but can expand its audience to hundreds if the music goes outside, such as happened during a MIX Santa Fe event last year, said Carolyn Parrs, who handles marketing.
Waits said he looks for performers both locally and nationally. “It’s always a novelty to have someone come from out of town, but it’s also great to support local talent,” he said.
On March 23, the space is hosting T.J. Borden and Kyle Moti, an improvisational cello and bass duo from San Diego, as well as a newly formed New Mexico quintet, Pentent.