You build community through music. It’s an ideology that has worked for centuries: You have a group of people who are interested in writing and performing music, and they do. What follows are people who are interested in supporting the writing and performing of said music through attending shows and purchasing LPs, CDs, cassettes or downloads. Along the way, some others will get involved via booking shows, operating traditional and non-traditional venues, making fliers or artwork for the recorded product and spreading the word. In the end in a perfect world, all parties participating flourish either through a sustainable livelihood or perhaps experience enough personal fulfillment through the art to induce happiness.
The world is far from perfect and getting farther from perfect every second, but there are still communities grinding it out, trying to make their part of the world better through music.
Aztec, New Mexico, may be a blip on your drive to Albuquerque or other parts south, but since 2012, George Rowe and Crash Music have been adding to their community via music. It’s the mission of the organization. While an uphill battle, they’re slowly taking hold in what was a desert of a music scene in northern New Mexico. Their first show featured guitar player Levi Platero, a Stevie Ray Vaughn-influenced blues and rock player. Platero will return to Crash Music this Saturday.
Rowe spent 34 years teaching music and math in New Mexico public schools. After retiring, he was going to use Crash Music solely as a place to give music lessons. “This was going to be my retirement. A small studio where I was just going to teach private music lessons,” Rowe said in an email. “Then we tried a few intimate concerts. We had Kirk James in one night and drew 90 people, way too many for this small space. The Aztec Theater became vacant in June 2013 and we moved over to it.”
Rowe is a folk musician, and that genre had been his mind-set when it came to booking bands and operating a venue, a venture Rowe has admitted knowing little about. “I’m a folk musician first, and I’m interested in roots music,” he said. “We started with a blues-heavy lineup, but we’ve expanded to include rockabilly, rhythm and blues, funk, honky-tonk, new acoustic music and Americana.”
There’s a community for a venue in that area, mostly people in northern New Mexico who may not want to make the drive to Durango. It’s also been fruitful for artists that Durango venues have passed on and for music lovers in Durango willing to see those artists.
Artists who have played the venue in the past include Indigenous, The Appleseed Collective, Finnders and Youngberg, The Jon Stickley Trio, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, and blues musicians such as Eddie Turner and Bill “Howlin Mad” Perry. That’s a small sampling of a growing list of musicians who are now favoring Aztec for a show over Durango. They’re treated well by the venue, and the venue operators do their part to use local media outlets to get people in the door.
“This venue has been fueled by the following wish on my part to present what we call the ‘best bands you’ve never heard of,’” Rowe said. “In the last four years, the bands that have performed at Crash Music have provided stellar entertainment for our customers, who have become avid fans and followers of these bands.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].