The newly christened music festival this weekend, stationed in Taos, New Mexico, is destined to turn (on) more than a few heads. Cofounders Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham explain.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
Monolith on the Mesa is set to make history with their inaugural festival in Taos, New Mexico starting this Friday, May 17. Local news reports that with two days of heavy music, the mountains are already shaking and avalanche warnings have been posted. Doctors are on standby for people who might be affected by the cloud of mystical smoked herbs that will be billowing towards Santa Fe. Kids have been told not go to school until Monday.=
Joking aside, OM, Woven Hand, Dead Meadow, The Obsessed and a whole raft of heavy bands are set to rock the thronging masses literally and figuratively into a hallucinogenic miasma. Lucky for Blurt readers then that I caught up with Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham while they are still clear headed enough to ask them a few questions about the festival.
BLURT: What possessed you guys to create a rock music festival in Taos New Mexico?
DANO SANCHEZ AND ROMAN BARHAM: Well, Taos is a special place. When the Melvins played the Taos Mesa Brewing it was packed and Al Cisneros [of] (OM, Sleep) [we were talking at that show and were] like ‘you need to play here” and with that the idea was born. Taos Mesa Brewing is a very unique venue, next to the gorge bridge, at the base of the Sangre de Christos (blood of Christ) mountains all over seen by [the] Taos Pueblo, [which is over 1,000 years old]. It’s a heavy vibe and a high desert setting ripe for this festival.
BLURT: How hard was it to get funding?
Well this festival has some great sponsors but it is a festival born of ideas of limitless possibilities that Roman and I have created.
BLURT: What are some of the funding sources and sponsorships that is making it possible to hold the festival?
We have generous sponsors who share our vision and wanted to invest in the vision that is Monolith. Magical Tattoo, Black Arts Tone Works, Worshiper Cabinets, Music Go Round(Albuquerque), Taos Mesa Brewing, Hotel Luna Mystica, Arise Music & Coffee, Fly Pr, Blues Funeral, Heads Up Music (Taos), Kickstarter Music, Vans, The Coffee Apothecary (Taos), Magnetic Eye Records, Ripple Records.
BLURT: Who came up with the name Monolith on the Mesa and who designed the poster?
I did (Dano), I feel that Taos is a monolithic place that evokes limitless possibilities and being high in elevation the transmissions broadcast[ed] and receive[d] are really clear. The poster was designed by Simon Berndt – he organizes Endless Daze and [lives] in South Africa. [It’s a] great image to set the tone for our inaugural year.
BLURT: What were you looking for in terms of the bands you wanted for the festival? (When I look at the lineup I think it’s perfect for Northern New Mexico with its mystical psychedelic edge.)
First off we are fans of the heavy genre of music, all-encompassing genres. So we sculpted the show that we would want to see.It all started with OM, the rest was milled over and came to fruition and now we are weeks away from realization.
BLURT: Which band was the hardest to secure?
I’d say The Obsessed were pretty hard to nail down, but Wino and crew came thru!
BLURT: Musically how did you all decide the order of the bands and will you be filming this concert for future release?
That was hard to decide but we are really excited with the order that they are in. We hope to film portions of the show and there’s definitely videos coming to our YouTube channel.
BLURT: Were there any bands that you invited that had to cancel or were there any that you hope to get next year?
We had 2 drop and 2 new ones sign up. Sleep, Melvins, Mondo drag, are [the bands] who I would like to see, and seeing The Saviors play again would be killer! But we are focused on this year and making a great time for [both] artists and attendees.
BLURT: Who are you guys most looking forward to seeing?
Everyone really, that’s why we sculpted this line up. EYE is one I’m really looking forward to (Dano) and [of course] my all-time favorite, OM.
BLURT: In terms of creating the music festival what festivals did you draw inspiration from?
I really like old time carnivals so a little of that mixed with Stoner Hands of Doom.The idea that music inspires art inspiring music. Christian Ristow and Christina Sporrong are bringing their intense metal sculptures out that have interactive fire elements to them, along with The Ad Alchemist Liquid Light Show handling visuals on the outside stage. So [it’s] more [a] psychedelic carnival.
BLURT: How are ticket sales?
So far so good! We are going to have a great time.
BLURT: Tell us about how the location will be set up?
Taos Mesa Brewing is the main venue where there is a indoor stage(worshiper stage) and the outdoor “earthship” ampitheatre is outdoors.
BLURT: Is there camping?
Yes, the Hotel Luna Mystica compound is steps away where they have a vintage trailer park, as well as primitive camping areas.
BLURT Will there be security screening?
Yes, there is a safety factor. Everyone deserves to have a safe and fun time.
BLURT: Will the music be in tents as well as out in the open?
There will be the Bedouin tent on Hotel Luna Mystica property that will have a DJ set and also a small bar.
BLURT: What about facilities such as water and restrooms?
We will have restrooms at the brewery, as well as porta potties all around the compound. Water stations will be available as well as beverages for sale.
BLURT: Are there any decibel restrictions?
Yes there are, but not ‘til after midnight, so that’s why the outdoor ampitheatre shuts down at midnight. Lisa Bella Donna will be doing a first night wind down [Friday] night inside from 12-12:30 and our after party and wind down on Saturday is Lord Dying and Year of the Cobra inside from 12-1.
BLURT: How many people do you have working for the festival?
We have a great crew putting this together. Dano Sanchez, Roman Barham, Joel Meinholz are the main organizers, and we have a great team working hard on media, volunteers, box office, security and hospitality, along with the great crews [from] Taos Mesa Brewing as well as Hotel Luna Mystica.
BLURT: Have local businesses been supportive of your efforts?
We have had great support from local businesses. Next year we intend on [having] more community involvement and outreach.
BLURT: What sort of local vendors will you have on site and what sort of stuff will they be selling?
We will have vendors from all over as well as local ones, from artists doing live screen printing, jewelry, snack vendors, a bee lady, Wumaniti native earth sanctuary, coffee, record store, and many more.
BLURT: I’ve been to Taos and it’s a small town. Was it difficult to get the permits and was there any pushback from the locals or Native American community, given the Pueblo nearby?
Taos Mesa Brewing and Hotel Luna Mystica carry permits and work hard to pull off events. No blowback from the Taos Pueblo, we love the puebloans and want to encourage festival goers to visit the Pueblo and learn about the people that give this beautiful town its rich history.
BLURT: In terms of the Native American Community, what can we expect on that front – will there be any Native American musicians?
This year the way it worked out no, but next year we fully intend on having dancers, drum circles and bands as well.This year really happened so fast we filled up [really] quick. Lots of local New Mexican favorites tho.
BLURT: Taos and Northern New Mexico weather changes on a dime in May, so what are your contingency plans if it starts to snow or a sudden hail storm happens?
We are a rain, snow or shine festival. We suggest that you wear layers because of the shifts [in the] weather. [Best to] be prepared. We have [an] inside [venue] as well as tents that will be around as well as the safety of the trailers and personal tent and RVs.The Bedouin tent will serve as a [contingency in case of] extreme weather.
BLURT: Is it already decided that there will be a festival next year?
BLURT: Finally, when all is said and done what do you hope people leave Taos with?
An experience! With the crazy vibrations that are going out to the universe these days, we want to radiate positive high vibrations that reverberate unity, love and healing through art and music. I think that most people coming are seeking something out of the norm and this may just scratch that primal search for truth and belonging.Taos is Magical and transformative [place that] can have a lasting impact on people [making them want to] return. [There’s] no place like Planet Taos!