by: Pamela Hollinger
It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed something great…something that makes me smile so sincerely I can feel the joy permeating my soul. This is a good thing. You see, it’s been almost 2 years since Mandatory FM had to quit broadcasting and it was a very sad day for all of us involved. After that happened, I fell into a musical black
hole, where the gravitational pull of being disconnected was so strong and emotionally empty that I wondered where I was headed. How could I go from being so involved (and hopefully helpful) to this?
I have seen very little live music since then. A random road trip took me to Luckenbach one Sunday for the greatness of Walt Wilkins, Jason Eady and Kevin Welch a few months back. I also managed to land in San Antonio the night my friend Susan Gibson was having a CD release show. Of course I got big hugs from Susan and a smile from Walt both of which just wrapped around my heart. I still had a place here.
Witnessing these two performances reignited my musical pilot light. But there was one other experience that I happened upon exactly one year ago. A family vacation to Colorado and New Mexico put me in Taos, NM on the final night of Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance. I called up my friend Corrie Zimmerman who had moved there with
her songwriter-husband Jed Zimmerman and told her I wanted to go since I would be in town. Rather, I needed to go be a part of it. It didn’t matter who I had missed the day prior or even earlier that day. It was about being around like-minded people who were there for the music in a place so beautiful and reconnecting to it all. I saw friends. I heard music. I even danced with someone special for one song. I soaked in as many moments as possible so I could truly remember how each song made me feel. And it’s those feelings that have led me back here again. I committed to attending all three days of the Big Barn Dance months and months ago,and it became the most anticipated event in my future. And I am so happy I am here…for so many reasons. First up, I needed music. Michael Hearne had a new cd out. Bob Livingston had released a cd I didn’t have. Heck, somehow I even missed Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest release. It was time to stock up. I got everything I could get my hands on. I made my ‘Big Barn Dance’ playlist and started to listen. I listened every chance I got. There was music I had been missing out on, and I didn’t like it anymore. As I arrived in Taos yesterday afternoon, singing along to one of the songs on the Trisha’s EP, I knew that these three days would help rekindle the passion and love I have for the music.
And not just the music – but the experience of watching the songwriter perform, seeing the audience react to songs and amazing instrumentation and how that affects the very musicians on stage performing. It’s amazing to watch everyone and everything being affected by the whole experience.
Michael Hearne and South x Southwest kicked off the festival around 4 pm. I couldn’t stop smiling. One song in and I was rejuvenated. I felt like a kid on Christmas unwrapping a song and then another and then another. Each one as loved as the last one. I had all these songs to enjoy and it didn’t stop until midnight. I got to hear songwriters such as Buzz Cason and Chuck Pyle. Jed Zimmerman, Jimmy Davis, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines. All of which told their stories and sang their songs and every single moment was fabulous.
Max Gomez was the pleasant surprise for me. I had heard his name but was unfamiliar with his music. This young 20-something Taos native had a way about him. He could reach you with words and a style that seemed to say he’d
been around for a while. His number one hero and influence is John Prine. That says something right there. He wasn’t quite country and he wasn’t quite rock and roll. He was just good. I bought his cd after his set was over and look forward to learning more about this kid.
The latter part of the evening brought two legendary songwriters to the stage. Sonny Throckmorton and Mentor Williams. After more than 10 years in the music business and all the knowledge I’ve accumulated, I’ll admit, I did not know who Mentor Williams was. Oh…but I do now. Mentor and Sonny shared the stage and did a song swap of
all of their huge hits. I knew every one of them. Lots of a-ha moments and “Wow, I didn’t know he wrote that song!” I heard songs that had been covered by Alabama, TG Sheppard and John Conlee. But the song that brought the house down was Mentor William’s ‘Drift Away’ that Dobie Gray had made so popular. You know the song: “Give
me the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in the rock and roll and drift away.”Yeah. That was cool. Really cool. Even with the New Mexico rain pouring down around the tent and the cool mountain air blowing in, the music was hot and the energy was alive.
I am so glad I am here. Yesterday was an awakening for me. Once again I feel connected to the music. My internal pilot light that fuels my passion for the music is already burning brighter and that warms my heart more than I can say.