After the pandemic lockdowns and laying off 201 people in 2020, Santa Fe arts mega-corporation Meow Wolf is slowly but surely returning to live shows once more and, frankly, its upcoming slate of events is straight fire.
“Bands are wanting to play really cool rooms,” says Noah De St. Croix Kessler, Meow Wolf’s senior talent buyer and event promoter. “So much of touring has been in the box, bands playing the same rooms over and over again. Artists are excited to come and play in the Meow Wolf venue.”
Said venue, which fits roughly 400, has proven one of the more popular live music spaces in the state since Meow Wolf opened its House of Eternal Return perma-installation in 2016. Since then, countless big name bands and DJs have routed through Santa Fe rather than Albuquerque—a formerly rare occurrence that now feels like a distant memory.
“Meow Wolf is one of the only spots where the venue is also like one of the performers—it has this real unique quality to it. I try to add it to every single tour I do,” says Maryland-based electronic musician and composer Dan Deacon.
This year, that show falls on Halloween, a specifically planned holiday event that, according to Kessler, should pack the house and get ‘em dancing.
“Halloween came up, and we were like ‘Meow Wolf Halloween? Sounds like if you pumped info into a computer asking what’s the best possible night ever?’” he says, “the computer comes out with Meow Wolf Halloween.”
“You could hear the sound oozing and echoing through the entire space,” says Natan Kruger during a recent conversation in the parking lot during a particularly busy day at Meow Wolf. Kruger has visited at least twice, though he tells SFR he can’t recall the first concert that brought him to Santa Fe. Still, he says, “I love the intentionality of the artists, and how even the stage space is another experience zone.”
Indeed, the main exhibits at Meow Wolf are occasionally open during performances. Some DJ shows have even take place inside the House of Eternal Return itself. And though regular patrons might think of Meow Wolf as a space dedicated to EDM, house, techno and other DJ-heavy live music experiences, Kessler says he’s dedicated to booking a wide array of styles—not the DJ sets you might remember from past years. Because of this—and, presumably, the easing of the pandemic doldrums—Meow Wolf shows are selling out at a faster rate than ever before. The Mountain Goats’ August shows are totally sold out, as is Gogol Bordello in September. Ditto Japanese Breakfast in October. Still, folk-punkers AJJ (with Xiu Xiu!) on Sept. 29 still has available tickets, as do the Quicksand show in October, and the Deafheaven show in February. Kessler says he still has other announcements to make, but that it’s important to pick up tickets as soon as possible if you hope to make any of these bigger shows.
“About half of these bands play bigger venues,” he explains, “and there’s a radius clause in their contract so we can offer the best possible shows in Santa Fe.”
In case you missed that, you can’t see any of these bands in Albuquerque this season, and that’s saying something.
So what shows (that still have tickets as of the moment we published this piece) might you want to check out at Meow Wolf soon? We’ve compiled some below:
070 Shake (7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 28. $21.50-128.50; tickets here)
Pronounce it like “oh-seven-oh shake,” so the kids won’t make fun of you, and know this New Jersey-based hip-hop artist brings bumping basses underneath ’80s synths and a dominating voice. Her song “Honey,” is the kind of music to close your eyes to as you sway into the void, the same void into which Shake’s bellowing vocals are crying out; unearthly, soaring and seemingly unattached from the human plane. She may come from the same inter-dimensional space as Meow Wolf. Tame Impala even did a remix of her jam “Guilty Conscience” which, in its original form, was named one of “The Best Songs of 2020 (So Far)” by culture and sports website The Ringer-dot-com.
AJJ with Xiu Xiu and Emperor X (7 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29. $27; tickets here)
Phoenix, Arizona’s AJJ lures you in with the foot-tapping twang and rock, but their hip-shaking hooks come with a dose of lyrical excellence, too. “The Michael Jordan of drunk driving played his final game tonight,” sings Sean Bonnett on the band’s 2011 release “Knife Man,” showcasing a bit of wordplay and a darker side to a poppier sound. This jerks the listener out of Americana into irreverence as quickly as opening Meow Wolf’s fridge transports visitors to a new world.
Dan Deacon (8 pm Sunday, Oct. 31. $25; 18+; tickets here)
Deacon often starts songs with simple instrumental solos, luring you into the sense that maybe they’ll be normal. But like Meow Wolf, a normal intro opens into a cartoonish, magical amalgamation of outer space, mystery and joy. Deacon is like a vanilla soft-serve rolled in sprinkles then dipped in synth and gummies—a lot and yet, the goodness only stings because only so much of it can be experienced in one go.
Shakey Graves (7:30 pm Monday, September 27. $33-38. The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co., 37 Fire Place; 21+, tickets here)
Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, hails from Austin, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing something or other at local troubadour Jono Manson’s Kitchen Sink Studios lately. He’ll return in September to play for Meow Wolf, but Kessler tells SFR they’re taking the show on the road to the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co. That venue, Kessler notes, fits over three times as many concertgoers as Meow Wolf does, and he expects to have more announcements for the space by next month.
Of course, bigger isn’t always better. Just ask our new best friend Dan Deacon.
“There’s a different energy in smaller markets because people really go with intention and tend to come great distances,” he hypothesizes. “It brings a really cool, unique energy. It’s really fun.”