Musically speaking, New Mexico can be a flyover state. Musicians have often skipped the Land of Enchantment on their tours, heading to larger cities like Denver, Phoenix, or El Paso. But since opening our doors in 2016, the music venue at House of Eternal Return has brought an eclectic variety of musicians through our state who would normally not slow down on I-40. Albuquerque, a city with over half a million residents, sits an hour away from Santa Fe and is full of locations for shows, but the allure of Meow Wolf and its small but vibrant venue has become a hot-spot for bands and performers.
Flashing lights, pulsing colors, sounds that reverberate from within and a backdrop of the weird multiverse we’ve created — this is a show at Meow Wolf. In a way, music is where we came from. As chronicled in our documentary, Meow Wolf: Origin Story, in the early days, anyone could grab the key and book a show in our old warehouse. Our roots are punk-rock and DIY. We never imagined we’d one day host talent from around the nation, but today, our concert sales constitute a large chunk of our annual income, and sharing music be it established, developing, or never heard remains wholly part of who we are.
When in 2017, our venue was named one of the best small music venues in the country by Yelp, we realized the great responsibility that had fallen into our hands. Sometimes it’s the little moments that cement new resonance into the hearts and minds of attendees, who, in a world saturated with readily available media, are hankering for a different kind of music experience. Which is also why musicians report that they enjoy seeing their sounds come to life in such an unusual setting.
Recently, Evan Rachel Wood performed a psychedelic set with her musical duo Evan + Zane on our stage. “I think performing there was just as much an experience for me as it was for the audience,” says Evan, who has been into our vibe and our exhibit from day one. “I think some people go to Meow Wolf to feel crazy but Meow Wolf is one of the only places I feel normal. Every time I have gone inside it has been a somewhat out of body experience and it’s always different. There are no rules there. The art doesn’t hang on the walls, it is the walls. It’s everything around you down to the tiniest detail, which is why the space is like no other. It feels like home away from home at this point.”
In addition to the shows at our exhibit, we have branched into larger collaborations with local and outside promoters, bands, and venues. We threw our first ever large-scale music festival this summer, Taos Vortex. With headliners like The Flaming Lips, Thievery Corporation, Dr. Dog, Emancipator Ensemble, Cashmere Cat, and Washed Out, Vortex was a huge success, drawing thousands of attendees and artists to the beautiful neighboring mountain town of Taos last August.
The three-day festival blended Meow Wolf’s signature artistic style, featuring large scale art installations, a VIP area, camping, and vendors—amenities of seasoned festivals across the country. Still, we were surprised and honored to win the New Mexico Hospitality Association Award for “Best New Experience” in New Mexico.
With a love of music that digs deep into the core of who we are, Meow Wolf was also thrilled to collaborate with an incredible Santa Fe–based group, Noise for Now, a national initiative that enables musicians to connect and financially support organizations dedicated to empowering women and protecting women’s health and reproductive rights. Noise for NOW continues, through tremendous dedication and effort, to coordinate incredible shows for phenomenal causes.
We also had the opportunity to partner with the Santa Fe Opera, where artists Andrew Bird and St. Vincent performed heart-stopping acoustic solo sets before the backdrop of the surreal desert sunset. Both artists donated the proceeds and a lot of magnificent musical energy to Noise for Now’s initiative. In the same vein, a few days earlier, Meow Wolf took over another local venue, The Bridge at the Santa Fe Brewing Company, co-hosting Grizzly Bear to headline for a thrilled, sold-out crowd.
Though the style of music we bring to shows varies, the feel and vibrant colors of our own venue, Fancy Town, have become a notorious backdrop for bass-heavy dance music. The central stage is surrounded by a second-floor mezzanine that has repurposed wooden windows, where guests can enjoy the show from above. Telephone poles strung with LED phone lines add extra sparkle to the dynamic neon that lines the stage and the carefully calculated projection mapping that morphs with each song, carefully thought out for each performer. No one concert experience is the same, and in our venue, it never will be.
As we head into the new year, we are look ahead to more shows, our second Taos Vortex, collaborations for good causes and mind melting music. For us, it doesn’t matter if it’s a three-day bash in mountains or a shakingly transcendent moment at our venue. Music was, is, and will always be part of our lifeblood at Meow Wolf.