It's hard to imagine the Taos Fiestas without the inspiring soundtrack of nonstop live music. The musical banquet weaves its magic into the whole Fiestas experience.
The months-long process of selecting bands and dance troupes is expertly curated by Don Francisco Trujillo, the longest-serving member of the original Fiesta Council. "I started with Taos Fiestas at age 18, and I really never left," Trujillo said. "With the music we try and be as traditional as we can, while including the greatest variety of talent. The musicians volunteer and donate their time, as do all of the Fiesta Council members. It is truly a labor of love."
Trujillo gave us a rundown of the musical offerings for 2018.
Friday (July 20)
The live music kicks off at 12:30 p.m. with Northern Revolution. The band is the newest incarnation for bandleader Eddie Herrera, who has been the opening act at Taos Fiestas for many years.
Hard rockers, The UZ Band take the stage at 1:30 p.m., featuring Joey and Mike Córdova, Joseph Madrid and Marcello Vialpando.
Mystic Dance, beginning at 2:30 p.m., is marking its 10th year performing for Fiestas. "The dancers are students from many of the schools in the area who have come together to form not only a dance team, but a dance family," said founder Maria Lucero Ospino.
At 3:30 p.m., the gazebo is home to Niños Bailadores. The dance troupe's founder Luzita Trujillo has devoted decades to teaching the traditional Northern New Mexico dances to young people.
Legacy of Santa Fe takes the stage at 4 p.m. "It is always an extreme pleasure to be a part of your beautiful celebration," said musician Steve Encinias. "You all make us feel like family."
Singer-songwriter Gustávo Rodríguez comes all the way from Austin, Texas, to play for Taos Fiestas at 5 p.m. "He has this energy that engages the audience," Trujillo said. "He's bringing the whole band this year from Austin."
The annual Fiesta Mass will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 205 Don Fernando St. Music will be provided by Santa Fe's Mariachi Sonidos del Monte. The group has performed for Taos Fiestas before, but this will be their first time anchoring the entire celebration. "With over 100 years of combined musical experience, we provide a truly unique sound, while maintaining the traditional rhythms and rich style of mariachi," said the group's director, Santiago Romero.
At 6 p.m., Catalina Río Fernández will celebrate 28 years of dancing flamenco on the Taos Fiestas stage. "I love being in Taos Fiestas," she said. "It allows me to celebrate with my family and community our living heritage."
Mariachi Sonidos del Monte return at 8 p.m. for an hour of music.
Dawn Luz Padilla y Los Cantus con Aaron Trujillo begin at 9 p.m. Eighteen-year-old Padilla comes from a decades-long family legacy of musicians. "Fiestas is one of my favorite places to perform, as the people and the culture show their love for the city and the musicians," she said.
Austin's Gustávo Rodríguez returns at 10 p.m. to close out the night.
Saturday (July 21)
Mystic Dance starts off the second day of Fiestas at 9:30 a.m. Mariachi Sonidos del Monte follows at 10:30 a.m.
Albuquerque-based Azero Norteño makes its Taos Fiestas debut at noon, performing Norteño and cumbia-style music.
Emi Arte Flamenco takes the stage at 1 p.m. "I met 'La Emi' at a shoe shop in Santa Fe," Trujillo said. "We signed her up right there. The guitarist who accompanies her is from Taos, Vicente Griego."
At 2 p.m., Legacy Band of Colorado Springs plays a two-hour set. "I love performing in Taos Fiestas, giving back to the community," said founder Zach Bernal, whose family's roots in Northern New Mexico go back to the early 1800s.
Baile Español, directed by Angela Miller, begins at 4 p.m. "I'm especially excited to see them because this year my 3-year-old granddaughter Nevaeh will be dancing with them!" said Trujillo.
5 p.m. brings Maggie "La Rancherita" Vigil and Taos' own Stash. Vigil was born here in Los Córdovas. She released her first album, "Por La Primera Vez," in 2017. Her son Joshua will be singing with her, along with good friends, the classic rock band, Stash.
At 6 p.m. Mariachi Sonidos del Monte provides a musical backdrop for the great vocals of Antonio Reyna.
Arroyo Seco-based Dickie Córdova y La Pleve take center stage at 7 p.m. The Taos legends have been giving their talents to Fiestas for decades.
Saturday night wraps up with the Gran Baile de las Fiestas at 8 p.m., providing three hours of dancing under the stars. Music for the dance will be provided by Gonzalo, with guest appearance by "El Gringo" Shawn Kiehne.
"It was getting to be expensive to find an indoor venue for the Gran Baile," Trujillo said. "Our Fiesta Council member Thelma Montez suggested a 'street dance' right here on the Plaza, and it's worked out great. Even when it rains, people don't stop dancing! Gonzalo is also known as Robert González, a great musician. His good friend Shawn Kiehne -- stage name "El Gringo" -- last performed here for Fiestas in 2005."
"Gonzalo and his band are very excited to play for the Taos Fiestas," said manager Abby Sanger. "Gonzalo, originally from Las Vegas, N.M., recently moved to Taos, and is building his music studio here. He is inspired by the culture and tradition that Taos has to offer."
Sunday (July 22)
Uvaldo Olonia starts off the morning at 10 a.m., leading the St. Francis Choir from the San Francisco de Asís church in Ranchos de Taos. At 11 a.m., the group performs original music as the Lluvia Negra Band. "We are all musicians since we were small kids, and we all met when we played for the church choir," said Olonia. "We love Taos and are proud of our culture and heritage that has flourished in Northern New Mexico."
Mariachi Sonidos del Monte will perform for the Historical Parade at 11 a.m., and play on for another hour afterward.
The Popay Pueblo Dancers from Ohkay Owingeh make their Taos Fiestas debut at 1 p.m. "They performed for Santa Fe Fiestas last year and I was blown away," said Trujillo. "I approached them and asked the group's Alaina White, 'What do I have to do get you to Taos?' She said, 'Just invite us!' We're very excited to have them here."
Severo Martínez y Fuego begin at 2 p.m. "Taos Fiestas is an event that unites the community," said lead vocalist Martínez. "It is a time to celebrate music, cultural values and unity of all people that make up the beautiful Northern New Mexico region."
Multiple award-winners El Grupo Mezcal, comprised of Arroyo Seco's talented Márquez brothers, perform at 3 p.m. "As a kid, I would hang around the gazebo at Fiestas and listen to the wonderful music that brought joy and happiness to all the people," said Adonais "Níte" Márquez. "For us to get to be part of what we once enjoyed the most, just brings happiness to my soul."
"La Jovencita" Ernestine Romero, who performs at 4 p.m., is a Taos Fiestas veteran. "I started at the very young age of 11, performing at the Taos Fiestas as 'La Jovencita,' which means 'The Young One.' Twenty years later, I still get excited when it's Fiesta time and I get the call from Don Francisco Trujillo to come and perform."
Sangre Joven, who appear at 5 p.m., is directed by Las Vegas, N.M. songwriter Daniel Gallegos. The group features Bobby Madrid, who performed for years with Taos' Darren Córdova y Calor. This will be Sangre Joven's Taos Fiestas debut.
The closing act for the 2018 Fiestas will be Perfección de Chimayó, at 6 p.m. The family-based ranchero and cumbia band was formed in 1990 by Henry Martínez Sr. and his sons Matthew and Henry. "They've performed in Taos many times, but this is their first time at Fiestas," Trujillo said. "We're excited to have Perfección for our final performance of 2018. ¡Que vivan las Fiestas!"
For more information, visit FiestasDeTaos.com.