The drive from AZ to NM was incredibly beautiful, although not in the traditional sense. The beauty was not that of the Oregon or California coast, but a stark, striking kind of jagged beauty only the desert truly embodies. Mountains chaperoned me the entire way on both sides, and the horizons were visible behind the far off mountains in every direction. I pulled in to Albuquerque New Mexico June 10th after a 9 hour drive from Phoenix Arizona. My old friend Casey lives in a small apartment less than a mile from the University and from the downtown area, so I parked my camper at his house the first night I arrived. We immediately busted out the guitars and started playing music as we chatted and caught up on the past 20 years since we’d spent significant time together. It’s amazing to me how you can be separated from an old friend for years at a time, but if you’re true friends, you immediately fall back into your old rhythms and patterns like you never left.
After crashing in the camper in front of Casey’s house the first night, we towed it out to Rio Rancho where his younger brother Jesse owns a home. Jesse’s place was in a beautiful area outside of ABQ proper, and despite some floor construction, I was able to go in and check out his home recording studio! It was the first time I’d sat down and played the drums in over a month, but as soon as Jesse began slapping out funky bass riffs, my muscle memory flooded back and I was able to keep pace with this innovative musician. Casey and I hung out and played music most the day, in preparation for my FIRST open mic night of the CajonAlone trip. It was my intention to hit open mic nights my entire trip, but I struggled to find them as I traveled, and I also found myself distracted with all the other activities one can find themselves caught up in on an epic road trip. This open mic night was called The Draft Sessions, and is hosted by local musicians at a local brewpub called The Red Door. The musicians there were fantastic and everyone was so supportive of each other, no matter the level of musical development. My set and invention were well received, and although no sales followed, I got lots of social media likes and follows and met some really great people.
Tuesday we took the dogs to the Rio Grande River for a swim, played music and hung out with some of Casey’s NM friends. Wednesday afternoon we picked up the camper and made the short drive up to Santa Fe New Mexico to meet up with our friend Ryan Emmett from High School and his coworker/friend for some find local cuisine: Buffalo Wild Wings. Ryan is one of the funniest dudes I’ve ever known, and he’s truly one of the most sincerely kind people I’ve ever encountered (although his kindness is shrouded in smart ass remarks and jokes at my expense). Ryan lost his father in May and I lost my dad in January, so getting to share a hug, a few beers, some laughs and some tears made for a very therapeutic evening. The next day, Casey and I went and played at “The Plaza” in Santa Fe among many other fellow buskers (slang term for street musicians), patiently waiting their turn to play. We made a couple bucks and received some nice compliments on the music, but mostly just enjoyed the trip, the scenery and the great people.
As we towed the camper trailer back from Santa Fe, it dawned on Casey that his friend Lorie had a long driveway next to her house (two blocks from his) and we got her okay to park my camper in her driveway. The trailer fit perfectly, I was able to plug in power and water, and this cozy driveway became my home for the remainder of the week. Lorie was a kind host, and even allowed Mongo and Mable in to her home as we got to know each other and enjoyed cold libations on multiple days. On Friday Casey, Lorie and I drove out to do Casey’s Radio Show, Roots of Indie. I put together a 7 song playlist, played 3 songs with the CajonAlone on air and cohosted the entire show with Casey. I’m not sure if anyone else found Casey and I as entertaining as we found each other, but I thought the show came out awesome, and I’m really happy I was able to be a part of it (click here to hear the entirety of the show https://mortymbg13.podbean.com/mf/web/gnincj/Show_39.mp3).
Saturday Casey and I went and caught a couple local shows from some local musicians I’d met in my time in Albuquerque, and after a few beers and some wandering, we decided to grab my guitar out of the truck and play some music downtown. The truck was a couple miles from where we were, so the long walk to and from gave plenty of time to grow bored, nervous, or some other uncomfortable feeling about playing out on the streets of ABQ to a bunch of drunk strangers. As we completed our journey and approached the main drag, my buzz and trepidation faded and I was overwhelmed by a compulsion to share my love and music with this city who’d accepted me with open arms.
I started strumming D and G chords as I crossed the street, and two men in their twenties immediately started clapping and dancing as they felt the riff gain steam as the guitar strum built toward the opening line of the 90’s classic: What I got by Sublime. The two men began to sing along with the very first line of lyrics as we walked down the street, and seemingly the song’s message of love, acceptance and rolling with the punches hit home as we started our sing-along march down main street. As we walked and played, more strangers joined us as we sang, clapped and danced our way down the street. At one point I think we had 8 strangers walking down the street singing with us, giving a strange feeling of comfort and warmth in a world that is oftentimes so cold. As we neared the end of the song, a young black man stopped us and asked to rhyme over the beat, so I kept the song going as a he weaved fluid, agile bars into the Rock/Rap/Reggae classic by Sublime. As we wrapped up the freestyle, we clasped hands and hugged this talented young artist and continued playing songs up and down the street, with a few other instances of bar patrons falling in step and singing along. The energy and feeling of togetherness shared with these strangers was so incredible, and honestly unexpected. I thought maybe we’d have some drunk asses slurring along with the choruses as we walked by, but I never expected people to stop what they’re doing, sing every word and walk with us as we shared a song about love and togetherness.
Sunday evening yielded one last open mic night with The Draft Sessions at a second Red Door location with new and familiar faces from the previous Open Mic Night. The backdrop for the open mic night was beautiful mountains and an auburn sunset as musicians of all walks shared their talents and supported each other. Monday morning, I packed up the dogs and headed up to Durango, Colorado to add yet another state to my travel list. I’m severely behind on blogs, so I’m planning to play catch up in the next week or two, but I can assure you… the stories from Colorado are WELL worth the wait. Check back soon, like and share my videos if you’re able, and thank you as always for your love and support.