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Albuquerque’s Music Scene Is About to Explode

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REIGHNBEAU of Nothng Forevr at Burt’s Tiki Lounge | gig magazine issue 6.

After reading Pat Graham’s recent article “Is Music Photography Dead?” on Huck, there was one sentence that stuck with me: “If you look back at what people call great music photography, a lot of it is based on pictures of bands before they were famous, or at very small venues when no one else knew what was happening.” This is exactly what I find here in Albuquerque: talented musicians letting me into their world for the sake of preserving the moment.

I would rather that the tension and excitement stay high and Albuquerque rides it forever.

In 2014, I launched gig magazine. Almost every month for the entire year, I would reach out to a local band and work with them to make an issue of the magazine that represented them. Each issue featured photographs and an interview of just one band at one show. Looking back I essentially photographed, danced and interviewed my way through some of Albuquerque’s amazing talent. The thing almost every local musician told me, or at least agreed with when I asked them, was that Albuquerque’s music scene was primed and ready to explode. Every show I went to in 2014 (and the one show in January 2015) I could feel that electricity in the air.

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YOU at The Bungalow | gig magazine issue 9.

Musicians alone do not create that electricity. It also takes great venues, loyal fans, and dedicated promoters to get them all together. Albuquerque has the whole spectrum of venues—house shows to amphitheaters—with new ones opening every month. This gives bands and promoters the ability to craft thought-out shows with lineups to match the space. The best thing is that the smaller venues are occasionally landing bigger bands often with local bands on the bill. This is healthy for the venues because it helps them pay the bills. It’s healthy for the bands because they’re exposed to more people and reinforced with their already loyal fans.

There is a sense of local pride among the bands I met. Some of these bands have left to bigger cities “to make it big,” but they came back. Not because they didn’t make it big, some did, but because there is something about the fans in Albuquerque.

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Leeches of Lore at Burt’s Tiki Lounge | gig magazine issue 5.

One thing that made me excited for every issue was the openness of the musician community. After finding out that I was there for them, they would welcome me in. Once I was inside their community, I learned how much they worked and collaborated together with the goal of making great music. Maybe I was a bit novicelike to the scene, but it seemed like there was more of a focus on the music itself rather than a focus on the money. It reminded me of the hippie mindset of the late 60s and early 70s with the DIY attitude from the punk scene thrown in.

Albuquerque’s music scene is about to explode, but I really hope it doesn’t. I would rather that the tension and excitement stay high and Albuquerque rides it forever. I do not want the big-name artists stopping here every week. Although that alone isn’t a bad thing, the venues will book less local talent and the fans will skip a local show to go to the bigger shows. But alas, the wave will crest at some point and the high water will recede. When all that happens, who knows? For now, let’s all enjoy the music and go see some great shows.

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Wake Self in his home studio, Albuquerque, NM | gig magazine issue 8.
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The Elevator Boys at Launchpad | gig magazine issue 3.
gig magazine is a music magazine for musicians, venues and fans alike. It was founded by Justin Thor Simenson in 2013 as a publication of Imagination Included Photography.

Photos by Justin Thor Simenson.

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  1. I’m glad to know about the existence of gig magazine.

    One thing this excellent post shows is how little intersection there is between the different music communities in town. The bands Justin is talking about are generally not playing the bars and restaurants where the jazz people play, nor jazz venues such as the Outpost, and vice-versa. Not too many people are in both types of bands (correct me if I’m wrong). Resources for funding and audience-building seem to be separate. The classical community also has its own venues, circle of fans, and resources. And there are smaller divisions in the local music world as well.

    It’s hard to keep up with even one genre of musicians, since we have such a wealth of performers in the area, but it would be great if we could have more cross-pollination between groups. Information sources like Pyragraph are a possible way to make that happen.

    1. Elene, for the most part you are right. There does seem to be distance between some of the different music circles. Not necessarily when it comes to being friends or knowing each other, but more for musical collaboration.

      But I have met a few musicians who actively reach out for that collaboration and to me that is great to see. For example, Waylaid combined poetry, tap dancing, and various music genres into a great show.

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