Last week, after returning from a fun vacation in New Orleans — great food, voodoo and, best of all, music everywhere — a story on one of my social media feeds caught my eye and stuck in my craw.
It was an article from our sister paper, the Taos News. The headline read, “Town proposes changes for Kit Carson concerts.” A photo showed a bunch of old people (some of them looked like they were almost my age) at a Town Council meeting with signs reading “Give us back our town.” It looked like an angry Nextdoor news thread come to life.
The caption said a group known as “Friends of Kit Carson Park” were there to “show their displeasure at the recent concerts and support for moving loud concerts away from the park.”
Apparently the decent, honest, taxpaying citizens of Taos were upset with the recent three-day Meow Wolf Taos Vortex festival, so they responded with a little “festival” of their own at the Town Council meeting: Grump-a-palooza.
I flashed back to New Orleans, where great music is everywhere — not just at the bars, but in the streets and sometimes even in residential neighborhoods, where you can find homes, business, even utility boxes with colorful murals depicting musicians.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in New Orleans anymore.
The Taos News story, by reporter Jesse Moya, said Town Manager Rick Bellis announced several changes in the works. Starting next year, the town would no longer allow camping at the park. Also, Bellis said there would be no music before noon or after 10 p.m. on Sundays.
But the town manager also decreed, electronic dance music would now be forbidden at Kit Carson Park.
Faithful readers of my music column and listeners of my radio show probably realize that I’m no fan of electronic dance music. But banning a certain style of music from a public park? What if some righteous resident doesn’t like blues or country? Who’s the Grand Music Commissar who gets to make these decisions? If it’s mainly the noise level that bothers people, Wouldn’t equally loud classic rock — or an equally loud Beethoven symphony — be just as bad?
I can already hear the hum from Taos: “If you like New Orleans so much, why don’t you move there?”
As much as I love that town, I don’t want to live there. But as much as I love Northern New Mexico, I don’t think it would hurt us to acquire a more festive and tolerant spirit like that of NOLA.
“But you don’t have to live near this park with loud music,” the Friends of Kit Carson Park might say.
Maybe I’m weird, but I love hearing music in the air.
I live in a south-side neighborhood close to an arroyo. On the other side is an Airport Road trailer park, where mostly immigrants live. Often on warm nights, I can hear a ranchero band rehearsing from somewhere in that park. I always want to shout, “Turn it up!” I love hearing it.
Back in the ’80s, I lived in a house near Baca Street where I could hear concerts at Paolo Soleri. I remember hearing an entire B.B. King concert there one year when I couldn’t afford a ticket.
Granted, this protest against music happened in Taos and not Santa Fe. Here the biggest music news while I was gone was a stink over City Councilor Signe Lindell caught on tape saying the audience at a Joe West Plaza Bandstand show smelled bad. (Full disclosure: I was at that show. But I promise, I did shower that morning.) At least Lindell apologized after being caught and didn’t start pushing for a Bandstand Hygiene Statute.
But as we all know, this town is hardly immune from musical NIMBY-ism.
I remember back in the ’90s there was a Chinese restaurant on Canyon Road called Dr. No, which, for a short time, featured a weekly live music series on some weeknight. (Full disclosure: I played there myself at least once and was in the audience for several more.) But that was killed by the decent, honest, taxpaying citizens of east-side Santa Fe rising up against the scourge of music.
And though I haven’t heard any recent complaints about noise from outdoor concerts here, it wouldn’t surprise me if these did arise.
But I think we’d all be happier with more music and less bellyaching.