Pack your bags, bring your tent and drive 40 short miles through glorious landscape to Sonoita this Saturday to give thanks for the life-giving rains that pour from the chubascos (Spanish for monsoon thunderclouds).
Promising to be a honky-tonk Woodstock, or perhaps just a backyard shindig at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, the first La Fiesta de los Chubascos aims to bring a diverse crowd together in appreciation of the sounds and spirit of the Arizona desert.
For those who have yet to explore the amazing diversity of Arizona's landscape, driving down to this town will be awe-inspiring. For miles in every direction you see rolling green hills, dotted by wandering cows and the occasional ranch home--all punctuated with the obligatory rusted-out pickup. You would hardly know you were in Arizona; Sonoita has been compared to Montana. Almost 5,000 feet above sea level and about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Tucson, Sonoita is the perfect backdrop for such a gathering.
The idea for the musical thanksgiving arose out of a discussion Roger Clyne had with his family.
Clyne, who spent part of his childhood in Sonoita, said he was "wishing I could stay down there and have a place to play where it would be casual, off-the-cuff."
Doc Clyne, Roger's father, a rancher in Sonoita, said--in his Southwestern cowboy drawl--the "concept is about the people who come, so that they can have fun. They can camp, drink cheap and party down. The celebration of the chubascos is about the big rain clouds that come to us here in the desert and bring us the moisture we very much appreciate. So, we're giving thanks for that and looking to get together and have a great time, listening to good music."
And good music it will be. The four-band lineup is all deeply tied to this state. Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers--who just returned to Arizona after a three-week tour--Andy Hersey and Frayed Knot, Shurman and Lazy Horse all capture the elements of desert living in their own, unique ways.
If you are familiar with the Peacemakers, you know their sound is a meld of pop, rock, country, rural and Americana music.
Tucson's Andy Hersey describes his band's music as "indigenous Arizona with Western lyrics and hard-driving backbeats."
The name of the fest was taken from a song Hersey wrote. "Compañero Blanco"--white companion--is about a Mexican rancher with whom Hersey, 33, worked in his cowboying days. The rancher described the rain clouds, los chubascos, as being "heavier than oil on canvas."
Shurman, a band that resides in Los Angeles, is tied to Arizona via singer/songwriter Aaron Beavers. On its Web site (www.shurmanville.com), the band describes its style of music as a combination of "the energy of alternative rock with the sensibility of alternative country."
Lazy Horse is a Sonoita band that Doc Clyne said is comprised of cowboys and outlaws.
"They are very wild and entertaining," Doc said.
According to Doc Clyne, Lazy Horse's front man, Scott Compton, is a real Arizona cowboy. "He's a hard-core cowboy. That's how he makes his living--punching cows. No rodeo counterfeit bullshit."
A more perfect combination of bands couldn't be had for this festival. The desert inspires their music and the music pays homage to our unique environment. There is no better way to appreciate the desert than to listen to music that is inspired by it, drink a few beers and pitch a tent under the wide-open sky.