A few years back, I was on the road from Albuquerque down to Carlsbad (eventually to Carlsbad, I was stopping in Roswell first, but that’s a different story).
I don’t own a car, so the only time I drive is when I’m on a trip. That also means, I pretty much only listen to the radio when I’m on a trip in a rental car. Barely out of Albuquerque an hour, I was down to one radio station. Country music. Maybe it was the big sky and dusty hills, but it turns out I like country music. The rest of the trip that’s all I listended to.
And country music turned out to be my theme this weekend.
Last night I went to the Malt Ball – a beer and music festival. Normally, that wouldn’t be my cup of tea (as you can probably gather from my choice of expressions), but the name made me laugh, so I thought it merited a visit.
12 bands and 17 local breweries. I decided to go when “Denver,” a country band, was playing. I arrived when a “heavy guitar rock” band was playing.
I don’t know if that band was good or bad, I just know I couldn’t relate to it (more accurately it made me feel like I was back in 7th grade, a time I’d prefer not to return to). Denver, on the other hand, was pretty good, classic country.
The night before I went to Al’s Den in the Crystal Hotel. If you live in Oregon or have been to Oregon, you know about the McMenamin brothers. They run pubs, breweries, restaurants, theaters and hotels. Many are in buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, like the Crystal Hotel, which they opened last year after a renovation of the 1911 building.
Heading down the stairs to Al’s Den (named for Al Winter, who may have had mob connections, but definitely moved from Portland to Vegas to open the Sahara Hotel in 1952), I was going to listen to Frank Fairfield perform. He’s a musician from L.A., but listening to him you can see the dusty roads of another era.
I’m not sure what to call his music. It’s more than country. There’s a bit of blues and folk music too. He calls it “the people’s music.” His appearance and attitude would probably feel like a costume on someone else, but he struck me as genuine.
I knew he played the guitar, banjo and fiddle, but I hadn’t heard him sing before. I wasn’t expecting his voice. It’s startling at first, but travel with it and it will take you places.