‘Imagine a version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ where Juliet doesn’t kill herself at the end,” suggests Bones of Romeo founder, vocalist and guitarist David Garver. “Imagine if the nurse rescues her, right at the point of death. They escape to Paris, where they meet a 2,000-year-old vampire. Then, Juliet becomes a vampire, and she sets out to find Romeo. She wanders the world across the sweep of history, encountering Byron, even Shakespeare himself.”
It’s natural that Garver — who’s sustained a decades-long acting and writing career alongside his musical triumphs — conceived Bones of Romeo as something much deeper than one of Taos’ favorite hard-rocking party bands. The group is an ongoing rock opera in progress with a backstory of immortal, undead love.
Saturday (Dec. 30) at 6 p.m., the Aurafitness yoga space at 1337 Gusdorf Road, Suite S, will be transformed into a performance studio. Garver will be giving a rare concert with his original Bones of Romeo cohort, world-renowned “cosmic cellist” Michael Kott. Vickie Ford will guest on piano.
The event is a celebration of Garver’s 60th birthday. “The concert will feature songs from the rock opera ‘Bones of Romeo,’ and other original numbers I’ve written,” he said.
Garver’s personal journey began in Virginia, Illinois, west of Springfield. With Kim Treiber and Rick Montaño, he was a part of Taos’ legendary Boheims, who had a sojourn in Los Angeles when record companies began courting the band in the 1980s.
“Boheims were infamous to say the least,” he recalled. “You look back on it — like Springsteen said, musicians eff up people’s lives, set themselves on fire and then dance down the street. That was us from 1985 to 2000. Then I decided to stop burning myself and messing up others’ lives, and to become a father who was present. That changed everything for me. Music became ceremonial and more joyful and prayerful. I didn’t play out for years. I stayed home and played in the living room and was completely satisfied with the discipline.”
He continued acting, with parts in major films and television series, and became a fixture of the Taos theater scene. A love-hate relationship with Hollywood, and with acting itself, has contributed to a greater focus on music. “If I had to choose between auditioning for a movie and spending time with my grandson, there’s no choice there. There’s so much artifice in the world right now, and that big machine in L.A. keeps cranking it out. It’s manipulative and suspect, and in some regards Hollywood is the exaltation of mediocrity. Music just feeds my soul and grounds me. This is where I am right now. Music feels healthy, and singing daily feels good for my body. All that awareness of breath. You feel like a singing root!”
Garver said that his music remains heavily influenced by theater. “How could it not be? Most of my education came from the theater and researching roles. When we would do [Anton] Chekov, I would read Russian history and [study] the music and literature and art from that time period. It’s a great way to explore and educate yourself. When I [played the part of artist Mark Rothko in a play], it opened me up to paintings and music I never would have explored on my own. I do the same thing with bands and composers. I was never really into the Doors until I did a night of their music last June with Jimmy Stadler and Christof Brownell. I discovered a whole new appreciation and love for their stuff. And not just [Jim] Morrison and his theatrics, although of course it was quite appealing. That was an amazing band musically.”
He met Kott through musician Robert Mirabal, who was recording one of Garver’s compositions, “Hold Up the Sky.”
“The theatrics of Michael’s cello melted with the drama of my music. We had this rock opera idea — not yet completed because Michael is a brilliant cellist, always in demand with orchestras and on tour around the world. I’m going to record in January, so I went into my unrecorded stuff that I’d worked on with Michael. I asked him to play this concert, and he said he remembered every note. Michael is not to be missed. He brings depth that I could never bring to my own music on my own. When you’re talking Shakespeare and vampires, you want as much drama as you can get.”
Garver said his work could be considered political, “only in the sense of the politics of the heart.” He quoted a song lyric: “‘The veil has been lifted, we can no longer look away. The old story is ending, it no longer holds sway.’”
“Rock ‘n’ roll is still a place I go to daily,” he added. “It will always hold as much weight and influence as [playwrights] Shakespeare or Beckett or [composers] Dylan or Bach. There’s always something a little wild, present and loose and free. Anything could happen. I still love the jolt of performing live music. A good rock show can be liberating. It sounds strange and adolescent, but rock is a place where I feel comfortable and I can truly be myself. Even at 60.”
Tickets to the Aurafitness Studio show are $15. For more information, call (575) 758-9733 or visit aurafitnesstaoscom.