Monday, May 30, 2011


May 28-29, 2011 - Santa Fe Brewing Co, Santa Fe, NM

clockwise from upper left: Imperial Rooster, Anthony Leon & the Chain, Imperial Rooster, John Courage and the Great Plains

This was the first year they decided to go for broke and make FrogFest a 2-day affair. Saturday featured more rock acts and Sunday featured more country acts.

After baking in the sun all day Saturday, I barely had enough energy to rally for Sunday – but I absolutely HAD to see the Imperial Rooster from Española, NM. They played a mix of early and “new” material (just recorded at Frogville Studios), and were more comfortable with the newer stuff than the last couple of times I saw them, swaggering through the set list like pros. Their song “Khorn Syrup Sundae” is the catchiest of the new batch, though “Anything Goes at a Rooster Show” gets massive points for coining the term “lowfalutin.” Really looking forward to their new disc, “Decent People.”

Getting sets from the classic-rock-esque Albuquerque outfit The Strange on both days was a nice treat. They seemed about as exhausted as I did on Sunday though, compared to their thrill-a-minute set the day before. When asked how they developed their sound, the reply was: "We just listened to our parent's records."

John Courage returned to Santa Fe to record songs for his new album at Frogville, and brought his new backing band – the Great Plains – with him from Santa Rosa, CA. They also played both days.

Though I still consider Courage to be a top-notch songwriter, the new songs / band have an exaggerated air of the “depressed singer-songwriter” compared to the rootsy-rockin’ vibe of the previous album, “Lovers without a Care.” I noticed when that album’s producer, Bill Palmer, joined the Great Plains on stage for a few songs (including the instant classic, “Stuck in Encinitas”), the vibe shifted to a more “arena rock” flavor. Well, as “arena rock” as Americana can be, I guess.

For my money, though, the best band on the Santa Fe scene is still Anthony Leon & the Chain. Even though their set list was eerily similar to the last time I caught them a few months ago, they deliver the goods. Most local bands don’t understand the concept of dynamic range, or genre-bending, or even time changes. Leon fills the boots of frontman / bandleader well, and their sound, which implies a combination of Johnny Cash / Lynyrd Skynyrd / Hank III, sits right with the Brewing Company’s raucous roadhouse atmosphere.

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1 comment:

John Courage said...

Well, "depressed singer songwriter" is a hell of a title, homey. I'd personally vote I was a hell of a lot more depressed when I recorded my last album, but your guess is as good as mine. Thanks for not listening to the lyrics!

John Courage