Mark Hopwood previews this year's Blues & Brews Fest with coverage of the entire lineup and an interview with Levi Platero, whose To’hajiilee-based blues rock band headlines.
BY MARK HOPWOOD
Levi Platero of To’hajiilee-based blues band The Plateros, which headlines this year’s ABQ Blues & Brews fest, is moving on from the standard blues fare.
The ABQ Blues & Brews festival, which boasts a handful of blues bands and a multitude of craft beers, happens Sunday, May 29, at Sandia Resort and Casino. General admission tickets ($30 presale, $35 at door) get you in at 3 p.m.; VIP status ($40 presale, $45 day of show) earns you an extra hour, with VIP admission beginning at 2 p.m. The Plateros close out the Main Stage at 4 p.m.
“I’ve been doing this long enough now that I know my guitar playing will always be there,” says 24-year-old Levi Platero. “Lately I have been focusing more on the song, not necessarily just the guitar playing. I am writing songs now with melodies and chord progressions that are different from blues, though I put a blues guitar sound under it.”
As a 13-year-old featured blues-rock guitarist, wunderkind Platero took the 2005 Gatherings of Nations by storm in a trio that included his father and a cousin. From there, Platero journeyed to the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., and to the Navajo Reservation landscapes to shoot music videos for his original blues-rock songs.
Now, as Platero writes songs that stray from standard blues-rock progressions, he finds himself developing themes that originate from back home in To’hajiilee. An inkling of Native sounds can be heard in some of his songs, especially in drum patterns.
“I have something to say that is more important for me than just guitar playing,” Platero says. “I have parables to tell that relate to human experiences, what we go through in life. As a kid, I began playing in tent revivals, and I was raised with a church foundation. I have come back to it.”
This spiritual progress follows a period where Platero lived what he calls the template for Native American stereotypes.
“I never wanted to come home, just partying with my friends. Go on a bender and not come home the entire weekend. I had a front-row seat [to] how people isolate themselves from family, especially due to alcohol,” Platero says.
“There were some deaths and troubles I was dealing with, like everyone else around me, but I never solved anything by getting so far from my family.”
Platero was happy to find that his family’s still there for him. He’ll be playing some of his new songs at Blues & Brews, with two cousins for a rhythm section and Tony Orant on keyboard.
Here are some other highlights to check out at ABQ Blues & Brews 2016:
As is his proclivity, Dan Hicks of the Hot Licks has complained at least once about his opening acts, that they were always “strummers” — what less acerbic musicians might call “singer-songwriters.”
Apparently, Hicks hasn’t yet met Alex Maryol, who takes to the Acoustic Stage at 1:30 p.m. Maryol melds guitar virtuosity with a pleasant repertoire that’s kind to the ear and intellectually appealing.
With an up-tempo blues trio, nothing satisfies quite as much as a handsome frontman backed by a tasty rhythm section. So don’t even try to overlook the rather hirsute Todd Tijerina as his threesome takes the Main Stage at 2 p.m.
Blues guitar scales are blues guitar scales are … ho-hum. Here’s an idea: Turn the guitar upside down, and present the unexpected. That’s Lakota John. See if your ears don’t register a little surprise at the slide guitar licks John presents twice a day on the Atrium Stage: at 1:45 and 5 p.m.
Sandwiched between Lakota John’s sets is Bosque Blues at 2:45 p.m. on the Atrium Stage. Thanks goodness for nickel-plated guitars with resonators — they give a hound dog a run for his money. Listen to what “lonesome” really sounds like with the blues harp and the metal guitar.
For the full schedule of events and ticket info, visit abqbluesandbrews.com.