Here comes the music: Spankers to start series off right

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By Kelly LeVan

Summer means a lot of great things in Los Alamos, but mostly it means the outdoors is finally open – for biking, running, rock climbing, painting, napping and, of course, dancing to live music every Friday night.

For almost 20 years, concert producer Russ Gordon has been bringing some incredible talent to the Hill, from artists like Tim Reynolds, famous for his work with Dave Matthews, to Los Alamos’ own ’50s rockers, the Nomads.

This year’s tableau features two-dozen bands in nearly as many genres, and Gordon is ready to fire up the speakers.

“We’re expanding this year with some sounds that are new for me,” he said, “but I chose them all, and I’m really looking forward to all these shows.”

The Los Alamos County Summer Concert Series officially kicks off on Mother’s Day with a band that many might not at first associate with the family spirit of the holiday: the Asylum Street Spankers.

“A lot of their shows are pretty wild,” Gordon said, and their 2006 concert certainly attested to that.

However, the band has won much acclaim for its 2007 children’s album – “Mommy Says No!” – and Gordon said the first two-thirds of the show will concentrate on children’s songs and other family-friendly fare.

For the final third, however, all bets are off.

“It’s a different kind of show – from a different kind of band,” founding member Christina Marrs said in an interview with the Monitor. “We hope to give people a unique musical experience.”

Marrs, who sings, and plays guitar, ukulele, banjo and the musical saw with the Spankers, said the now-eight-member group started out as a string-and-blues cover band but soon began working in raw, original material.

“Over the years, we’ve embraced styles and genres to the point that we’ve left no stone unturned,” she said.

It should also be noted, for those who might hesitate to bring their children to see a band called the Spankers, that the old musician’s term from which the band took its name refers to “one who plays his instrument vigorously and proficiently.”

In other words, no one will be punished for attending the show.

Because of ongoing work at the Municipal Building, the concert will take place at the southeast corner of Ashley Pond, near the Community Building parking lot. The Frequency, an electronica band scheduled for May 23, will also play at the southeast corner of the pond.

The Frequency marks one of three groups playing “new sounds” for Gordon. He said the band’s music reminds him of Pink Floyd, Air, Mogwai and Herbie Hancock.

Oliver Future, who hits the stage on Central and Main the following weekend, he said is a little more like Radiohead, Wilco or the Flaming Lips; he broadly labeled Oliver Future’s sound as “turntablism,” a term referring to manipulation of music by a DJ, sometimes using phonograph turntables.

Something For Rockets represents the third band in this subset of new sounds. The band, which might appeal to like Cake or the Shins, will play at a brand new county/MainStreet festival called The Next Big Idea, set for July 19 at Central and Main.

Concertgoers will see a few other new names this year on the list, including The Waybacks, an acoustic/alternative rock band from San Francisco with a high-energy fiddle-player on June 6 at the Hilltop House Hotel.

The following weekend, the Continental Kids, renowned for their work in “American Graffiti,” “Happy Days” and “Apocalypse Now,” will bring their own brand of ’50s rock and pop to Central and Main.

The annual and always much-anticipated ski-hill show, scheduled this year for July 18, will feature Austin honky-tonkers The Gourds – and this is one of the concerts Gordon is looking forward to most of all.

“People should invite their friends and family to come to Los Alamos,” Gordon said. “I think The Gourds concert on the ski hill, with the cheeseburgers and burritos, will be the place to be in America that day.”

He’s also especially looking forward to the South Austin Jug Band, playing May 16 at the Kite Festival for a crowd that will include Gordon’s grand-daughter, Aisha Ceesay. Ceesay and her parents will travel from Seattle for the show.

Several other new bands, as well as some favorites from years past – like Candye Kane, Los Pinguos, Elana James and the Hot Club of Cowtown, Julie Stewart and the Motor Kings, South by Southwest, and the Los Alamos Big Band, among others – will also make trips to the Hill this summer to play free, all-age shows at locations all around town.

Smith’s/Bandelier Grill in White Rock, Zia Credit Union and the patio at Fuller Lodge will host their first shows this summer, and many other local businesses will host as well.

Although some of Gordon’s stage equipment was stolen over the winter – about $900 worth of supplies – he’s feeling 100-percent optimistic as he looks ahead to the upcoming concert season.

“I still love the music business,” said the former owner of Gordons’ CDs. “I love to entertain and I must say, I throw a great party.”

Unless otherwise indicated, all summer concerts take place at 7 p.m. Visit www.gordonsconcerts.com for a full, printable schedule. The website has been redesigned this year by Los Alamos’ Alex Rose and Jeremy Varela.

Please call Gordon at 661-4891 if you’d like to sponsor the series.

Kirsten Laskey contributed to this article.