Circus folk, roots and handsome fellas

by Ted Holteen

I don’t know what I’m getting so excited about. I’ve seen two circuses (circi?) in my life; one was a Rotary Club affair in a strip mall parking lot, and the other was The Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, a strange BBC thing where the band sat around and jammed with The Who, John & Yoko, and Jethro Tull, among others. As the ninth son of an Alabama sharecropper, the Greatest Show on Earth was a dream little more attainable in between my shucking and stoop-shouldered planting marathons as a trip to the moon. So I have no memory of high-wire acts or trapezes, and I still don’t know what a tiger looks like. And yet I still hate clowns. But as I alluded to above, there is a circus in town this weekend, if by “town” you mean Cortez and if by “circus” you mean a strange musical freak show akin to the Stones’ experiment from 1968. This updated version of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is a celebration for that Montezuma County flamethrower, KSJD, marking its third year as an independent community radio station. Originally revived in ’03, presumably as a tax loophole for KSUT, KSJD has become a necessity in a radio black hole formerly dominated by Big Dogs and Frogs. Ugh. So this is good. The ringleaders of this circus are The Dirty Novels, an Albuquerque rock outfit, but they’ll be hard pressed to live up to their own opening act: that being a belly-dancing troupe from Montezuma County. Swear to God. Sprinkled in throughout the evening will be roving bands of jugglers, fortune tellers and the like, and if they make any money from this thing, it goes to the station toward efforts to expand the listening area as far as, dare I say, Breen? The whole thing happens on Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. at Let it Grow Nursery in Cortez, with tickets available at the door. I think they still need a bearded lady or two, so some lucky vixen of the valley could save herself 15 bucks or so by foregoing the wax for a few more days. Just a thought.

Speaking of KSUT, on Monday the 27th they kick off their annual on-air fund-raiser, the one where they line up great drawings for cool prizes every day and someone besides me wins, even when I don’t work there anymore. Fresh off the presses for this year’s begfest is Volume III of Roots & Rhythms, a collection of performances recorded in the KSUT studios and put onto a CD featuring the artwork of the immortal Maureen May. Featured artists this time around include Tim O’Brien, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart, Rodney Crowell, Sam Bush, and BR549, among others. Pledge (& pay) $60 and it’s yours. However, through an exclusive marketing arrangement with KSUT’s Bruce Campbell, the new CDs will be for sale at Ted’s Books in Bayfield at a fraction of what it would cost you to get one through the station. (See what happens when someone doesn’t order enough XXL T-shirts, Bruce? And I better win something this time or I start selling bumper stickers.) If you miss it the first 1,470 times that Beth says it Monday morning, the number is 563-0255 to make your pledge. Please do so.

If you’re one of those remarkable people who can remember stuff from, like, a week ago (and believe me, I envy such skills), you may remember my treatise that mentioned the old bumper sticker about the Navy holding bake sales while tax dollars pimp out the schools. Fortunately, I save these things on my computer, so I was able to distinguish actual repetition from an ethereal sense of déjà vu, and thereby save us all the embarrassment of an exact reprinting of last week’s column. But the problem raised is not one that goes away in a week, so here we go again. This time, the ones foregoing the bake sale in favor of live music are the concerned people with the Durango Foundation for Educational Excellence. What is their concern, you ask? Well, for one thing, has anyone else noticed how stupid children are getting? It’s almost as if all the damn hippies who, in their belief that children were the future, must have assumed that reading and math would go the way of Agnew and Love Canal in that future, to be replaced by organic farming and weaving. Or they were stoned. Regardless, the DFEE knows that try as they might, our public schools and the well-meaning educators therein are fighting an uphill battle. (If they called it a battle they might actually get some federal funding – now that’s some good irony.) And where do the guardians of our kids’ education go when they need to pass the hat? Why, to Bayfield, of course, home of Jimmy Lee Smith and Handsome Dan. Now keep in mind I own a bookstore in Bayfield, so I have first-hand knowledge that the literacy gap is not a myth. In fact, just last week a man said to me, while inexplicably browsing in my shop, “I don’t read books.” So there you have it. As a grown man, he need make no apologies for what he likes or doesn’t, but with seven or 13 kids back on the farm, I do worry that those children may not have a strong academic influence in the home let alone a productive study environment or any of those “books” that some of us find so handy when opting to read rather than to shoot things or fix machinery. Both fine pursuits in their own right, I ask only that kids learn to read before they learn to load a shotgun or bore out a small block, whatever the hell that means. Anyway, the DFEE fund-raising concert is being called “Let Your Hammer Ring” for some reason, and Jimmy Lee (electric guitar) and Handsome Dan (mostly acoustic guitar) should put on quite a show, judging from their handwritten bio. That means they learned their ciphering and figuring, despite an obviously rural background that would lead one to calling himself Handsome Dan. It’s happening Friday night at the Diamond Circle Theater with two shows – 6:30 and 8 p.m.

It’s always nice when we journalists are able to report good news. I use both the terms “journalist” and “good” in their most liberal sense – what I do can hardly be called reporting, and the transition of a local watering hole from Farmington fight club to legitimate pub is only good for those of us who dislike Farmington and its ilk. Forget everything you know about Solid’s and embrace the reborn West Side Bar & Grill. Stay with me on this – Solid’s used to be the side of the bar with tables and a kitchen, and Shooter’s was the dance club next door. Then Solid’s bought Shooter’s, and now what used to be Shooter’s is Solid’s, and what used to be Solid’s is now the West Side. Get it? Solid’s is still there, but the new West Side is hosting two music nights a week blessedly void of Rob Base and Young MC in a venue blessedly void of yellow-taggers. Tuesday night is acoustic night, featuring the unique style of Caitlin Demuth for the first month, and Thursday is Wine & Jazz night. That kicks off tonight with Joyce Simpson & the JS Trio and wine specials. That alone should provide interstate segregation, as it’s well known that New Mexicans don’t drink wine unless it has a hint of pear or peach and is carbonated. Check it out – they have free appetizers, too.

Finally, no, I did not forget that Little Feat is playing the Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday night. I just figured that they’ve gotten by for the last 30-plus years without my help, and they can probably do it again. If, somehow you’re just finding out that they are playing this weekend, you should probably hurry to the downtown ticket office and see if it’s not too late. Good luck.

Reading can’t happen without writing – get on it. Just because it’s not leap year doesn’t mean you can’t send me birthday presents. Tuesday will be fine. •