Back in Tempe after a scattered and scattering week in Santa Fe for the High Mayhem Festival. I pulled out of the driveway in AZ at 9:30 in the morning and arrived on the dot for the 6:30 rehearsal with Chris Jonas' Rrake ensemble (Paul Brown, Jeremy Bleich, Milton Villarrubia III, Josh Smith, Mike Gamble and CJ) which went until about 11:30. Immediately afterwards drove up the mountain road and pitched a tent at the Black Canyon campground in Santa Fe National Forest, where I spent two nights. The second night, buckets of rain fell, of course. Just fine, really, and still exactly the edge of the wilderness I needed to shake out the endless stripmalls of central AZ. Besides, a few nights housesitting for JG and taking care of the sweetest dog in the history of the entire known quadruped universe took the only slightly rough edges off the camping experience.
The High Mayhem Festival itself seemed a huge success. Carlos Santistevan, the "curator" of the annual event, chose a new format for this year, with groups of similar performers clustered on each of the three days. Friday was "acoustic day," including the Cleveland Trio with Bleich, Smith and beautifully intense yet musical Cleveland drummer Carmen Castaldi. Rrake went on at about 12:30 am and played for a packed house until about 1:30.
The Traps event, originally planned for 6 drummers on 6 drumsets, benefited from the addition of Quinn Kirchner (who, as usual for a drummer these days, is involved in a billion projects, including Grilly Biggs). The performance was one of those oddly vanishing experiences: I remember going onstage, and leaving. What does Vijay Iyer call it at Destination Out...autoscopy. Al Faaet, Quinn, Mike Rowland, Dave Wayne, Joe Sabella and Milton Villarrubia III all played with extraordinary and deep listening. The array of 7 drumsets was a wonder to behold, especially in the load in area.
Great to be there, great to be a part of two wonderful performances. Some of my other highlight shows: CK Barlow and David Felberg doing Boulez' Anthemes 2, Mute Socialite from San Francisco (the buzz was all about Moe Staiano, quite rightly, but the other drummer, Shayna Dunkelman, completely tore it up as well. And what's not to love about guitarist Ava Mendoza?) The Late Severa Wires with JA Deane and Molly Sturges was also mind blowing.
There were, as usual, so many performances that grabbed me by the short hairs, packed into a measly three days, that I was definitely feeling overwhelmed by the time I hit the highway to return here.