Friday, September 19, 2008
On the road again
I'm coming to you from Albuquerque, which longtime readers know is one of my fave spots. Joe is home with Bibi, as he had a Shotgun Players benefit tonight. It's sort of lonely being here by myself (sniff!), but oh well.

My friend Neal co-produces a world music festival called ¡Globalquerque!, for which I am the webmaster. I spend so much time throughout the year working on the web site that it's kind of a nice payoff to actually attend the event. I arrived in town this afternoon a few hours before the 6 PM starting time. The extremely friendly young man at the rental car counter asked what had brought me to town, and I mentioned the festival. He had never heard of it, which I considered a teachable moment. I said in a few years, it would be Albuquerque's second biggest tourist attraction after the balloon festival.

After tonight, I'm starting to think that bit of hyperbole might actually be warranted. As much as I love Albuquerque and her people, it's been a bit of a sore spot with me that more folks don't come out and support the festival. You can read way more about it in my post from last year, if you're interested. However, tonight's crowd seemed huge. I'll have to wait and get the actual stats from Neal, but to my eye it looked like the biggest G! audience yet. (He told me that advance sales for Friday were way ahead of Saturday, so it's possible I'll be disappointed tomorrow, but I hope not. The merch booth was selling Saturday tickets at a super-low price for anyone who wanted to come back.)

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Lining up for food in the Global Village

G! is an unbelievably well-organized festival. As an audience member, I never fail to be impressed by how it runs like clockwork. If it says in the program book that a band will start at 7:20 and stop at 8:20, you could practically set your watch by it. The volunteers are friendly and helpful. Along with the music, there's a wonderful global village with food booths, artisans, community groups, etc. And how about this -- the Saturday night headliner, Kanda Bongo Man, canceled his U.S. tour two weeks before the festival, and within a couple of days, Neal and his co-producer Tom had booked an equally well regarded African musician, Thomas Mapfumo. The only hitch tonight was a rain shower around 9:30, but it didn't last long. It wouldn't surprise me if Neal and Tom had something to do with that, too.

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Tonight's show kicked off with a hometown band, New Mexico's own Cuarenta y Cinco (above), and proceeded to take festivalgoers around the world, with stops in Hawaii, Russia, Israel, Mali, Quebec, and more. I caught at least part of everybody's set with the exception of Greece's Savina Yannatou, since she'll be performing again tomorrow. My favorite was Germany's 17 Hippies, a huge ensemble (there weren't 17 of them, but I think there were at least 14) that plays a diverse blend of folk music, from Eastern European to Louisiana Cajun to French chanson. They were fun to watch and I stayed for their whole set, which I wish had been longer. (They're playing in Madison, WI tomorrow night, so I guess they had to get moving.) The audience favorite seemed to be Israel's Mor Karbasi, an extremely beautiful young singer from Israel with a lovely voice. It was her very first show ever in the U.S., and she couldn't have been sweeter and more appreciative of the crowd's rapturous response. I hope the people in Chicago (her next stop) are as kind to her!

The only artist here who I had seen before is Vieux Farka Toure, whom I saw at Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco a few months ago. I stuck around for a good chunk of his set anyway; I really enjoy that hypnotically rhythmic, bluesy sound of Malian music. There was a woman standing in front of me who looked sort of like an aging Hollywood star -- she had blonde hair, wore a long dress, and was carrying a little dog. Maybe I should have brought Bibi!

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It occurred to me that if I had a BlackBerry or iPhone, I could liveblog or Twitter the entire festival. Alas, you'll have to wait 'til afterward for the lowdown. Keep your fingers crossed that tomorrow is a sunny day (there are lots of free activities and performances in the early afternoon), and that the Plaza is full of happy, dancing people in the evening!
posted by 125records @ 10:58 PM  
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Name: Sue
Home: San Francisco Bay Area, California, United States
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