Saturday, September 02, 2006


Once again the annual Thirsty Ear Festival kicked off at Eaves Movie Ranch with a night of New Mexico music with an admission cost of $1 plus two cans of food.

I got there too late for the Vigil Family set, which I regret. I've said for years that the festival should incorporate more homegrown Hispanic music. (I'm still hoping for a big Al Hurricane set some year)

Unfortunately for Alex Maryol, the Rain Gods decided to do their thing during his set. Brought back not too distant memories of Frogfest . I wimped out and hid out in the KSFR tent. I know the rains have been a blessing this summer. The wildflowers are nice and it's great that the pinon trees aren't all dying. I was afraid that what's let of our forests were going to burn down this year and that the city would be regulating showers. But, Christ, it's been Hell for outdoor music in Santa Fe the past few weeks.

But the rains subsided for Chipper Thompson & The Feast. And that was extremely fortunate. Chip and gang were on fire. I've heard him with various musical backup through the years. (I'll never forget the magical/mystical rendition Chipper and Mason Brown did of "Oh Death" at one of the early Thirsty Ear Festivals. This was before O Brother Where Art Thou and thusbefore everyone and his duck was doing the song. It also was just shortly after Chipper's wife died.)

But Friday was the first time I'd seen Chipper with a full-blown electric rock 'n' roll band. Some of his regular cronys are in the group: Kim Treiber, playing bass and Don Richmond on fiddle and a bunch of other instruments. Plus he had another guitarist, a keyboard player (who also is a fne background vocalist) and drums.

The electric arrangements do real justice to Chipper's backwood stomps. They played the songs that first made me love Chipper's music -- "If I'm To Blame" and "Rainwater Bottle." Robin the keyboard player amazed and delighted with her background vocals on "Will You Let Me Stay With You?" And "Steel Vines" just plained rocked.

Chipper, rightfully, mainly does originals. But the few covers he did were inspired. There was a flawless "All Things Must Pass" (somewhere in the Universe, George Harrison was smiling) and a fun run through of Del Shannon's "Runaway." (Chipper's voice hit nearly all the high notes during the "wah wah wah wah wonder" refrain.)

But best of all was the Tex Mex version of the bluegrass classic "Rank Strangers." Chipper introduced the song talking about the plight of Mexican immigrants. The arrangement reminded me of The Mekons' Fear and Whiskey period. The Feast version of this song would make Jon Langford extremely jealous.

First full day of the festival is only hours away ...


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