A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 22, 2008
Frogfest didn't croak
After taking a year off, Frogfest, the local music festival that showcases acts signed by Santa Fe's Frogville label, returns to the Santa Fe Brewing Company on Saturday, Aug. 23, with a packed schedule.
Most of the Frogville musical family are slated to play the festival: Nathan Moore (you know him from ThaMuseMeant); Taarka (another ThaMuseMeant offshoot, featuring Dave Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller); Boris McCutcheon and the Saltlicks; Bill Hearne; Xoe Fitzgerald, the Time Traveling Transvestite (he and Joe West have never been seen together); Goshen; and, of course, Hundred Year Flood.
Frogville Records, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, has been responsible for some of the finest locally produced albums this century. The company is the baby of co-founder, CEO, and president-for-life John Treadwell, affectionately known as "Big Frog" by the musicians in his stable.
The first Frogfest took place in 2005 at the Santa Fe Brewing Company. This was followed the next year by a more ambitious festival, a two-day event at the Brewing Company that featured national headliner James McMurtry in addition to all the Frogville acts and other local bands.
It was a great time for those who attended. The only trouble was that, thanks to several factors, including rain, the crowd wasn't as big as expected. Sometimes it seemed as if the camera crews nearly outnumbered the audience. The Los Angeles Filmmakers' Cooperative was there, as was Santa Fe filmmaker Lexie Shabel, who shot the whole festival.
So Treadwell took a bath and Frogfest took a break for a year. This year the festival is scaled back to one day ("eight hours of love and music," the press release says) and no national acts.
A tale of the Flood: Frogfest 3 will be the first Hundred Year Flood performance since a very special concert on the Plaza last month — the group's Santa Fe Bandstand gig. While the opening band, Bone Orchard, was playing, HYF singer/guitarist Bill Palmer got a call informing him
that bass player Kendra Lauman had just given birth to a baby boy — Oak Lauman Palmer.
Kendra had gone into labor that morning, Bill said. Her husband, Jim Palmer, HYF's drummer (and Bill's brother), had warned the band that it had better find a substitute rhythm section for that night.
Bassist Susan Hyde Holmes (of the Santa Fe All-Stars; and the Saltlicks ) and drummer David Waldrop stepped up like pros. Neither had ever done a Flood gig before, but both play with Bill Palmer and Felecia Ford's country-western side project, The Cherry Pickers, so there was musical compatibility.
And as corny as it sounds, it was nothing short of a magical show. To get even cornier, Kendra and Jim definitely were there in spirit.
Kendra had long known that her due date was dangerously close to the Plaza show date, but she thought it would be cool to play when she was extremely pregnant. Well, she got close. She's expected to rejoin Flood at Frogfest 3.
Frogville never sleeps: The company plans to release three new albums — by Hundred Year Flood, Nathan Moore, and Boris McCutcheon — in the near future. I got my hands on an advance copy of one of them. Here's what I think:
* Bad Road, Good People by Boris McCutcheon and the Saltlicks. This is a worthy follow-up to Boris' last album, Cactusman vs the Blue Demon. Listeners know they're in for a treat from the opening notes on the first song, "The Ballad of Rusty Strange" — a little musical conversation between Brett Davis' tenor banjo and Kevin Zoernig's harmonium.
Although Boris and band make some sweet sounds, I usually prefer McCutcheon's darker songs. My favorite one here is "Waiting for the Demons to Die." It's a lilting, pretty song with some irresistible steel guitar by Davis, but the lyrics are delightfully twisted: "Frost on the window, blood on her cheeks/The days blur into weeks/I'm coughing up hair on the sunny stairs/Waiting for the demons to die."
Then there's "The Wicked Things," a minor-key waltz with a sinister accordion by Zoernig. The The song sounds as if it’s from some weird arthouse movie, perhaps a scene in a European back alley where someone's about to be murdered. "I sharpen my spade on a child's grave," Boris sings.
"I severed her head with one blow."
Gotta love those silly love songs.
The album ends with "I Long (Then I'm Gone)," which features a guest appearance by Taj Mahal on harmonica. It's a nice simple blues. And nobody loses his head.
Last year, when Taj Mahal was in town for a show, he was reportedly hijacked by Frogville henchmen (though no police report was filed) and taken to Treadwell's home studio, where he laid down some tracks for Boris and a new Hundred Year Flood song. He sounds great.
Frogfest 3 takes place from 4 p.m. to midnight at Santa Fe Brewing Company, 27 Fire Place. It'll cost you $10; humans 12 and under get in for free. Call 424-3333 or visit santafebrewing.com.
Frogville Radio: John Treadwell hosts this weekly radio show on KBAC-FM 98.1, starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. I'll do an unauthorized Frogville Radio half hour on Friday night on The Santa Fe Opry on KSFR-FM 101.1 in honor of Frogfest. My show starts at 10 p.m. and the Frogfest segment will start at 11 p.m.
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