I’ve heard the argument that with a culture of music videos, YouTube and music artists who are computer generated, the live music scene is losing its relevance. I’m not sure what the stats are as far as concert ticket sales or the number of live music performances now compared to 10 years ago, but Rebecca Black has nothing on sitting in a small venue and listening to an unknown talent work his way through 4 hours of music.
We accidentally stumbled upon Ryan McGarvey about a year ago when we were having some drinks at the Zinc Cellar Bar. He was a long haired, fairly young blues artist who definitely knew his way around a guitar. We liked him enough to go to Scalo’s Il Bar just to watch him play an acoustic set a few weeks later. While the live music scene in Albuquerque is getting much better, we are not too much of a Blues town, so to find a local talented Blues musican was very exciting!
Last week friend Robin invited us out to a blues performance. The blues singer ended up being Ryan McGarvey, and we absolutely jumped on the opportunity to see him perform again.
The music venue is called Low Spirits. I had never heard of it before, and was a little concerned to find out it was on 2nd street between Candelaria and Menaul which is a more industrial, less polished part of town. Plus, a place called Low Spirits made me envision a shady dark hole-in-the-wall where unsavory characters hide out in between evil deeds.
We completely missed it the first drive-by. The lavender neon sign is pretty dim, and the parking situation is less than ideal. We parked a couple of buildings away hoping that our car would still be there when we left.
The bar itself was close to what I imagined. Dark, no frills, skulls painted on the walls. But the clientele and staff were actually relatively young and lively. The place was packed with about 150 people. I only saw two wait staff, but our girl managed to keep our orders straight and wasn’t too inattentive considering the amount of people she was serving. Low Spirits doesn’t serve food. The beer list is about what you would expect with one or two craft beers and a lot of bud light, miller light, Tecate, and, if you’re really brave, Milwaukee’s Best. The cocktails were weak (as in, I’m not convinced my $6 mojito had any rum in it)
But really, I don’t think most people come here for the ambiance or drink selection. Low Spirits is a music venue, and I’m guessing the crowd changes based on the act. If an interpretive mime was on stage, then I don’t think Low Spirits would have any redeeming qualities. But luckily, Ryan McGarvey was on stage, so the place was tolerable.
Ryan is a local musician who can sing with a wide range, jam out on the guitar, perform a respectable Jimi Hendrix, and play three sets (5 hours) without losing his voice. He’s great to watch in person, because he seems so emotionally connected to his music. The entire place froze with mouths wide open to watch the way his fingers moved. He is raw, amazing talent, and recordings don’t do him justice.
If live music is losing the battle to virtual video, Ryan McGarvey proves that we should seriously reconsider. Low Spirits is keeping live local music alive, and even if it isn’t the most glamorous place in the world, I would go there again to enjoy good company and good music.