Why Knot is one of the three bands that will be performing at a drive-in concert on April 17. The concert will be from 2–6 p.m. in the Macey Center parking lot.
Photo courtesy Ronna Kalish

Three bands. Two generations. One social-distance concert for everyone.

New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series April Socorro Sessions features local bands playing rock and roll – a wide-ranging genre of music enjoyed by multiple generations. In fact, the musicians themselves range from a band of Tech students, one of Tech retirees and one whose members are multi-generational.

The socially distanced drive-in concert is  Saturday, Apr. 17, from 2 to 6 p.m. As with the previous Socorro Sessions, the concert, ala COVID-19 style,  will be under the solar-paneled parking lot at Macey Center.

The afternoon begins with Why Knot, an acoustic band of three musicians with whom Socorroans are familiar. Jim Ruff is a member of several Socorro bands and the founder and host of the pandemic-era Open Mic Zoom Wednesdays. In Why Knot he joins Steve and Martha Cather for an acoustic band that plays mostly ’60s era tunes.

The three have been playing together for several years without a name before the trio even had a name.

“We got tired of just being Steve, Martha and Jim, so two years ago we came up with the name, but by then there were fewer venues,” Martha said. “We’re strictly an acoustic band. We play a lot of Grateful Dead, some country rock, jazz and folkified versions of songs.”

Steve plays guitar. Jim plays bass and mandolin. Martha plays piano, accordion, and requinto, a small Mexican guitar.

Both Martha and Jim have played in the last three Socorro Sessions, and Martha laughs at the suggestion she is competing with Jim for most concerts, having played in the previous two as well.

“They just happened to be a fit,” she said.

Now that she’s retired, she is “looking forward to having more time for my habit.”

Technical Differences takes the stage next at 3:30 p.m.

Comprising engineering and physics majors at New Mexico Tech, the quintet will offer a different variety of classic and alternative rock. Senior Joshua Gibbs, an electrical engineering major, is lead singer; explosive engineering student Andrew Wagg sings and plays guitar; Seth Sisneros from mechanical engineering also sings and plays guitar; astrophysics student Keith Lucero plays bass and clarinet; and physics student Kody Gray is drummer and plays mellophone.

The five have been jamming together for about two years but only informally. Then one day Keith saw that PAS Director Ronna Kalish was looking for bands to play.

“When I asked what was required she said ‘we had the gig,’” he said. “We had 24 hours to come up with a name and an official photo.”

According to Kody, for inspiration they turned to the back of textbooks, ultimately rejecting his nominee of The Wiggle Factor in favor of Technical Differences.

Playing together during the pandemic has not been a problem since three of the five live together.

“I joined first because Andrew needed someone to play music with while he practiced guitar,” Keith said. “So I would play clarinet with him. We learned a song or two, and shortly after, we realized we needed more members, so we started inviting other folks.

It was soon evident that a bass player was needed.

“I have always loved rock bass lines, so I picked the instrument up and learned how to play,” he said.

Lead singer Josh “was roped into it at first, but now I really enjoy singing with my friends.”

Technical Differences

Kody also was roped into it after the band had been asked to do sound checks and realized they needed a drummer. So, knowing Kody had some music background, they asked him if he drummed.  “No,” he said.

He gave it a try and, “honestly, he nailed it, he killed it for us!,” Andrew said.

Ironically Kody is one of only two members who read music. His instrument of choice is actually a mellophone, a marching-band version of the French horn. The others learn by listening and watching video – and from each other.

They promise at least one original song, Finding Time. “The song can be taken a few different ways,” Josh said. “As a senior it’s very hard to find the time to do the things I like.”

“He likes the song at 200 beats per minute,” Kody joked.

Keith said he had composed a bass line tune and the band was adding onto it.

“Out of nowhere, Josh just started singing, it was a very Leonard Cohen or Robert Plant experience,” he said.

Concert goers will get to hear their final version, as well as covers from Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Scorpions and 4 Non Blondes.

The third and final band for the afternoon is Mountain Top Rock, formerly known as The New Relic. Led by Montana Pettis, this Magdalena-based band includes two generations of music lovers.

“I’ve always had a band,” said Montana. “But this version averages about four years.”

His band won the statewide Battle of the Bands contest in 2015 and has played in various locations around the state.

“We have just come out with an album and are getting ready to send it out to have mastered,” Montana said.  It features 11 original songs.

The band has in its repertoire over 30 originals, and everything from ’60s and ’70s on up. Backing guitarist Montana are Mark Howes on bass and vocals; Dion ‘Delux’ Gonzales on lead guitar and vocals; and Willie Mozley at the drum kit.

“I play the guitar kind of grungy,” he said. For years called their music rockin’ country, jammin’ vibe that we call Mountain Top Rock.”

The band’s original name The New Relic was overshadowed by the release of a popular new software program that used that name, Montana said. “So, it seemed logical to rename the group for their style.”

All three styles promise concert-goers plenty of jamming music to dance and listen to while enjoying the outdoors.

Food vendor Cubish will be available, always with a fun and varied menu. You just text your order and they bring it to your parking spot.

Attendees must pre-register online or by calling PAS at 575-835-5688. The concert will also be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.

For more information, call PAS 575-835-5688 or visit nmt.edu/pas

Ronna Kalish, Performing Arts Series