'Beautiful energy,' Alabama Shakes rocked Taos

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Thunderheads lumbered in the far distance and scattered clouds hung over ticket lines as music fans queued up outside Kit Carson Park to attend the long-awaited Alabama Shakes concert on Saturday (Aug. 6) in Taos.

With a vacillating weather forecast and memories of a deluge that dampened Mumford and Sons’ performance in Taos three years ago, the specter of rain figured in the minds of many waiting ticketholders, some of whom came prepared, toting umbrellas and waterproof jackets.

“I was here in 2013,” said Colorado Springs high school teacher Anna Rodríguez as she moved along the cyclone fence that led to the ticket counter. “We had a great time … and if it rains again, we’ll be ready.”

But by the time the main gates opened at 5 p.m., not a drop had fallen as dark clouds gave way to a brilliant evening twilight and a clear and starry night — one that will surely be remembered, and talked about, for many years to come.

At 7:30 p.m., indie rock-band, Dawes, opened the show as concert-goers lounged against cottonwoods and laid down on blankets picnic-style, snacking on the varied fare offered by a half-dozen food carts set up for the event.

Taos Mesa Brewing’s beer garden was a returning attraction — one that maintained long lines throughout the evening. Los Angeles resident, Sarah Lucky, waited in line for a pint as Dawes played their hit song, “All Your Favorite Bands.” When asked why she came out to Taos, Lucky said that she wouldn’t miss an opportunity to hear Alabama Shakes lead singer, Brittany Howard, perform.

“Brittany’s voice is amazing,” Lucky said, who works for Netflix as an editor on the comedy, “Grace and Frankie.” “It’s just really good, soulful music.”

Dawes front man, Taylor Goldsmith, offered a gracious final welcome to the crowd as the remaining ticketholders filed into the park — 8,000 in all.

At 8:30 p.m., AMP Concerts promoter Jamie Lenfestey and Town of Taos special events and facilities director Mitch Miller took the stage to offer their own welcome and reminded the crowd of their intention for the new stage become “a permanent fixture,” with many more concerts planned for the future.

At 9 p.m. a snap-tight hip-hop instrumental thumped through the speakers and Alabama Shakes climbed the stairs and took the stage. Brittany Howard led the way, swaggering under the lights in a patterned turquoise dress and her signature ankle high suedes as she threw her hands out in rhythm with the beat. Cue the crowd’s loudest roar of the night.

Accompanied by bandmates Zac Cockrell (bass), Heath Fogg (guitar), Steve Johnson (drums), two keyboardists and a trio of backup singers, Howard hurled herself into a set that lasted nearly two hours, mixing a balance of first and second album songs that had the crowd on their feet for the rest of the night.

Aside from shouting the occasional ‘woop’ or ‘thank you’ Howard didn’t stray too far outside her lyrics, but near the end of her encore set addressed the audience with gratitude: “I wanna’ tell you somethin’. Thank you so much to everybody who came out to watch us and hear Dawes play tonight. This is a very different kind of place than I ever been to before.

"It’s very beautiful, very peaceful, very chill. I want to say thank you for bringing all of this beautiful energy to all of us musicians who got to play here for you today. I’ll never be ungrateful.”

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