Thursday, March 24, 2016

Breaking news: Quartzsite survives -- maybe thrives on -- big rock festival

Last fall we posted information about an upcoming Quartzsite event – a rock festival. It was a "duh" moment for this writer – on seeing the big billboard advertising it, all I could think of, "What? Another QIA?" [Quartzsite Improvement Association Gem & Mineral Show.] Silly fellow, as I soon learned this "rock" had nothing to do with minerals, and everything to do with decibels – as in, lots of them, pounding out musical rhythm.

In case you got out of town in time to miss it, you may be wondering how the first-ever Latino rock concert went down. Well, label me an "old fossil," I guess I'm here to tell you that I'm kind of relieved it's over, but truly surprised at how well the whole event went.

Panteón Rococo in 2014. Libertinus on
The two day event, which took place along the Interstate 10 south frontage road at the Desert Gardens Showground was truly a tribute to modern Mexican rock. The weekend of the 19th and 20th saw nearly two-dozen top bands from the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere from Central America appear on stage before huge crowds of ecstatic Latin music followers. Maybe I'm dating myself, but the crowds weren't anything like those that showed up at Yasgur's farm back in '69, but for a "first time" festival, there were plenty on hand.

Prior to the arrival of construction crews who put up fencing, huge tents, portable lighting systems, stages, and pulled in plenty of semi-trucks of cerveza, many locals were placing bets on how big the riots would be. I spoke with one land-owner from the north side of I-10 who told me she wasn't setting foot outside of her home during the concert, she was certain there would be violence.

Violins, maybe, but no violence. Actually, the violins would have better been termed fiddles, as at least one band – a Mariachi cum heavy metal outfit showed up. We watched a Youtube video featuring the group, and I almost hate to admit it – the group was good! If the lead singer were left out of it, the music was great.

I will confess I didn't cough up the freight for even a pre-festival ticket ($99) but I managed to interview one well-known festival-goer (hint: he works behind the counter in the post office) who told me that while the place was definitely crowded, the attendees were about as well-mannered as we could hope for. Most stuck to the festival grounds for the show, but plenty migrated out to Love's, Burger King, and McDonalds for refreshments. No, the National Guard never had to be called in, and the state patrol boys assigned to keeping an eye on local roadways looked like they were working harder at keeping their eyelids propped open than any other activity.

While the festival itself was slated for the weekend, the Wednesday evening prior to the show the outfit did a little "sound testing." OK, the showground is close to Loves, and our humble abode is behind the local strip mall, quite a distance away. We definitely got plenty of sound at our place, leading me into a grumble fit about how I'd ever sleep through the weekend. But come opening day, organizers chose to turn down the volume, and other than an occasional "bump, bump" of bass, we never heard a thing. A friend who stays on at Desert Gardens – a scant ¼ mile away, tells me that the wind came in from the west and carried the sound away.

Mainstream media suggested that as many as 20,000 festival goers would cram in and rave all weekend. In reality, only about 4,000 advance tickets were sold; my "insider" source guesses that by the end of the first day of the festival maybe 8,000 were on site. Judging from the amount of labor and equipment involved, it would be a mighty close shave if the promoter made a profit, but the festival goers seemed to enjoy it – and like the big Gringo music festival down the street in Coachella, the first year could be more of a trial balloon. Coachella lost money in its first roll-out – but today, it's a booming annual business.

Having been around QZ since the late 1990's and watching the seeming decline of winter visitors (most of us aren't getting any younger), maybe an annual music festival isn't such a bad idea. Seeing a lot of young people having a good time and bringing a few bucks into the economy is strangely refreshing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Big cats on the Colorado -- not far from Quartzsite

Snowbirds who make Quartzsite their destination have plenty of interests. From rock hunting to quading across the desert, to strolling through the endless rows of vendor tents. And then there's always fishing. No, there aren't a lot of ponds to dunk your line in, but there is, not far to the west, that big hole for bass and catfish anglers, the Colorado River.

A couple of years ago we got a phone call from a fellow who was tiring of the cold winters and "lake effect" snows of Michigan. Desirous of trading in his snow blower for a fifth wheel, he made some serious inquiries about the climate, and before you know it, Ken and his wife showed up with a big fifth wheel and a hearty appetite for desert living. He also brought his fishing poles, and not long after, had a little fishing boat go along with the tackle.

Ken settled on down in the little town across the river, Blythe, California. None of us locals had a lot of experience with angling. Sure, some would go out occasionally a drop a line in an irrigation canal, or stick our toes into the river water, but Ken was serious about his business. Driving around the area, his eyes constantly scanning for "likely spots," it wasn't long before Ken settled into the life of the inveterate piscatorian. So it didn't surprise us in the least when one day, he brought home the big one.

The "masculine" side of our family well remembers the thrill when hooking and landing a seven pound cat fish. But Ken—well—with all modesty on his part, seven pounds would be fine, but something a little bigger would even be better. We can only imagine the look on his wife's face when he staggered up to the door with a fifty-pound catfish. Aside from, the "hows" and the "wheres," the "whats" also came to her lips. What do you do with a whopper like that?

The answer to that question came in the form of a very big fish fry, where about 40 of us descended and ate catfish – and those us from the southwest – some hushpuppies, too. One of our hosts cooked up a big turkey for those whose heart was to faint to taste something of a "mud eater like that thing." In reality, Ken's big fish turned out to be quite tasty, not anything like you might imagine.

Truth be told though, there are more "cats" on the Colorado that just catfish.

A few weeks ago, Ken was out stalking more of those scaled critters when he had a run in with another critter he hardly expected to see. Dunking his line on the California side of the Colorado as darkness began to settle in, he was startled to see something join him that had come in from the opposite shore: A bobcat.

Now Lynx rufus is not a stranger to the area – winter visitors occasionally report sightings of these cats in the desert around Quartzsite, but they tend to be rather retiring creatures. Ken watched with fascination as the cat shook out his fur and eyeballed him for a bit – long enough for Ken to take a few pictures.

Big cats and big fish.  Who knows, maybe if you run down the river, you might just run into one or the other yourself. But one of each for the same soul? Almost too good to be true.

If you have a hankering for fishing, out-of-state residents can pick up a fishing license for use in Arizona waters for $55 for the year, or $20 per day. Licenses can be purchased and printed from the state's web site.

Fish in California, an annual license is $126; however short term licenses for out-of-staters are a bit less: A one-day license is $15.12; $23.50 buys two days; or lay out $47.01 for a ten-day license. Again, these can be purchased on-line.

Finally, if you've ever wondered why the bobcat looks as he does, the Shawnee people have an explanation. Bobcat was out hunting Rabbit one day, and had almost got him in his claws when Rabbit escaped into a hollow tree. Rabbit taunted Bobcat, telling him he could stay there forever, that he, Rabbit, would never come out.

Bobcat wisely replied that Rabbit would eventually have to come out to eat. So Rabbit, recognizing the truth of it, suggested that Bobcat build a fire so that when he came out from the tree, Bobcat would be ready to cook his dinner. This seemed reasonable, so Bobcat lit a large fire, whereupon, Rabbit jumped out of the tree and into the midst of the hot coals, spreading them all over the duped cat's fur. Bobcat escaped death by jumping into the nearby river, but to this day, his coat shows the dark brown spots where the coals landed.

photos courtesy Ken Stutzman, all rights reserved