One needs only to wander to a historic square, turn off the road to a local winery, or check out a local park to find all genres of local, regional, and national live music performances in any city, town, or village of New Mexico.
HISTORIC PERFORMANCE SPACES
Many of my favorite performance spaces are former movie palaces transformed into stages with modern sound systems and seating. These buildings are often in the downtown areas of the community. I appreciate the dramatic interiors from the gilded splendor of these old theaters. While I’ve attended performances in theaters around the state, my current favorite is the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. Built in 1931, today the restored historic theater thrives as the city’s performing arts center, with a diverse program of theater, music, dance, films, and lectures.
A friend and I attended a performance of Black Violin, and she recently managed to get a seat for the sold-out Pink Martini concert. Upcoming performances include Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and The Robert Cray Band.
From one end of the state to the other, renovated theaters have been turned into performance spaces for their communities. Catch concerts in Las Cruces at the renovated Rio Grande Theatre in the downtown historic district; Flickinger Center for Performing Arts in Alamogordo; Shuler Theater in downtown Raton; and the KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque.
OUTDOOR PERFORMANCE SPACES
New Mexico is famous for its sunny days and its glorious sunsets. What better spaces to synthesize these treasures than at outdoor performance venues? I experienced such an unforgettable summer evening at the Sandia Resort & Casino Amphitheater. This man-made amphitheater has stone seats, so be sure to bring a cushion. Often multiple bands are performing, so your musical evening may last into the starry night. This space has hosted bands such as ZZ Top, The Steve Miller Band, and Billy Idol.
AmadorLive is a fairly recent addition to the music scene in Downtown Las Cruces. This outdoor venue, set on a large lawn with a raised stage, rocks to a youthful vibe, and is surrounded by the Amador complex’s restaurants. Many communities in New Mexico host summer concert series with music ranging from Latin to jazz to old rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the tailgate concerts in Alamogordo; music in the park in Las Cruces or Silver City; and Mother’s Day and other summer concerts at the Albuquerque Zoo.
Santa Fe Summer Scene kicks off June 8 and goes through August 31 at Santa Fe Plaza, Railyard Plaza, Swan Park, and Reunify Resources Farm. These free concerts will feature performers Shakey Graves, The Motet, Pharcyde, La Santa Cecilia, and more. Get the details at Lensic360.org.
Every weekend in June and July, Old Town Albuquerque provides live music at the gazebo. Drop in to listen or dance to the free performances. In October, be sure to visit Old Town for special performances throughout Balloon Fiesta week.
Los Alamos claims the best free summer concert series in New Mexico is held at Ashley Pond Park. Every Friday from May 26 through September 1, pack up your chair, cooler, and picnic basket to hear the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Igor and the Red Elvises, and Eclipse: A Tribute to Journey.
The Aztec Museum near Farmington holds summer concerts in the Pioneer Village every Saturday through September 8 featuring Americana and bluegrass music.
LIVE MUSIC AND LOVELY LIBATIONS
At this time of year, I prefer to enjoy music on a patio whenever possible. Many wineries, distilleries, and brewpubs offer a trifecta of a tasty libation and nosh, a local band, and an outdoor patio with an excellent view. In Las Cruces, one of my favorites is the Rio Grande Winery. The winery’s spacious green lawn and sheltered patio face the Organ Mountains.
The winery presents a variety of musical genres from country to folk to jazz. A tasty menu and local wine highlight a summer evening spent with friends and family. One evening, I had the pleasure of watching a dad country dancing with his young daughter balanced on his boots. This magical space is relaxing and low-key, which guarantees a pleasant evening.
NM Vintage Wines, just off the plaza in Mesilla, has an intimate patio with just enough space for a small band. Local wine and beer are paired with simple cheese plates — or order delivery from La Posta across the way. Music sessions are well attended so seating disappears quickly.
Whether at a local winery such as Amaro Winery in Las Cruces, which features young local musicians, or the music and comedy nights of the Truth or Consequences Brewing Company in T or C, live music with local performers is easy to find. In the northern part of the state, take in Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery in Santa Fe or Steel Bender Brewyard in Albuquerque.
Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery provides live music with local and regional performers at both locations in Silver City and Las Cruces. Don’t skip their food choices or their craft cocktails, such as the lavender lemondrop martini.
Sacred Grounds Coffee and Tea House appears to be a rustic log cabin settled on the main street of Ruidoso. However, it serves more than coffee and tea. Add beer, wine, and spirits made in New Mexico, along with music on weekends featuring local performers for a pleasurable outing.
BIG SPACES, BIG NAMES
Macey Center on the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology campus in Socorro seats more than 600. The annual performing arts series brings in a wide range of musical artists from the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra to Irish music and dancing. The rows of seats are widely spaced, and ticket prices are affordable.
Pan American Center at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces is one of the largest performance arenas in New Mexico, seating more than 13,000 people. This venue brings in some of the biggest names in country music, as well as other performers. The Santa Fe Opera is home to more than opera, with a variety of musical performances taking to the stage in this unique venue.
QUIRKY AND PLAYFUL
In Hatch, Sparky’s has grown into a major attraction known for its green chile cheeseburger, BBQ, and live music on the weekend. Visitors can’t miss the bigger-than- life sculptures posed on the roof and surrounding this burger joint — or the long line for burgers, fries, and espresso coffees, which won’t seem daunting while you are listening to local bands. Blue Moon Bar and Grill, self-described as a modern dive bar, is on the road between Las Cruces and Hatch not far from historic Fort Selden. The patio with its live music is especially popular in the summer. While you can get there quickly from the freeway, it’s more relaxing to take a weekend drive out old Highway 185 to enjoy the music and kick back with a crafted cocktail.
Meow Wolf, named one of the best small venues in the country, tucked a stage inside an interactive installation created by an artist collective. Concerts and performances cover all genres and are as unique as the space itself.
IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN
Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts in Alto near Ruidoso combines a premier venue with extraordinary views and excellent performances that make it worth the drive. This contemporary building houses a professional stage and sound system to support major Broadway shows and top performers, such as Cats and the Texas Tenors. These music venues are just a small sampling of the choices of musical performances and music venues in New Mexico. From the many casino stages to brew pubs, distilleries, wineries, and bars, local or regional performances add to the enchantment of New Mexico.
Story by Jackye Meinecke | Photography by Olivia Belcher
Originally published in Neighbors magazineThis article was posted by Olivia