By August Edwards
There’s an attractive ring to the term “high desert,” and I think it’s fitting because the high desert is an experience. The sun’s gotta zap the energy from your skin, the wind’s gotta have you toppling over, and you gotta get a lot of dirt and dust lodged in your nose.
Eagle Nest, NM towers at 8,238 feet. If you’re driving to Eagle Nest from a bigger town like Taos or Santa Fe, you’ll find that it sort of suddenly occurs—oh, there’s a Shell station, and look, there’s a whisper of a lake in the distance. The town is an ephemeral strip of human life. This is where hundreds of people conglomerated over Memorial Day weekend for the first ever Fest in the Nest.
Fest in the Nest came with the promise of twenty or so bands performing over the course of two days, as well as over 20,000 motorcycles. Bands and bikers that chose to camp out at the lake for two nights defied the winds and the cold of the night all in the name of desert rock. To me, it didn’t seem like there were quite 20,000 motorcycles, but even so it still felt packed. For the most part, the main stage was very divided from the bikers’ festivities.
While bands were instructed to keep it PG when speaking on stage, there was a big vendor truck with “Fuck Biden” and “Trump 2024” flags flying brashly in the wind. However, this wasn’t really indicative of the overall vibe of the fest.
Looming over everyone’s consciousness were the fires that’ve been dominating New Mexico. Incredibly, the first ever Fest in the Nest was still able to commence and bring people not only from around the state, but out of state as well. A portion of the fest’s earnings were donated to local firefighters, and vendor fees were dropped in hopes that vendors would do the same.
All that being said, the high desert elements took on a character, or act, of their own. And as someone who believes bands from the Land of Enchantment are their own forces of nature, they collided with the elements in a complementary way. This is to say, they were meant to play hard.
Initially, it seemed like the festival would be an epic battle of bands versus the elements. However, what happened made me think of something like adaptation—like how cacti roots know how to dive deep into the dirt to tap water necessary for life. Bands from a great expanse know how to fill up that great expanse.
Somehow, despite the gnarly winds, the acoustics were perfect. Despite the dirt whirling in the air, the artists remained poised. I chalk this up not only to professionalism but to serendipity.
To paint a picture, I think the best example of this was when The High Desert Playboys took the stage to kick off Saturday morning. The most poignant moment was when Clark Libbey explained that their last song was depicting when the alien invasion is to finally hit earth amidst a love story—wind engulfed me as I closed my eyes and allowed myself to be transported.
Though the bands varied in genre, they complimented each other nicely. Rockabilly into hard rock; Americana into psychedelic rock into metal—that progression and that spirit is desert rock.
I hope this festival is something that we can look forward to in years to come. It's important that bands have opportunities like this that allow them to travel, and there was a great sense of comradery from the artists, on more than one level. It might go without saying, but the intersection of music and motorcycles seems rich and, frankly, extremely cool.
Gilead Rises; Pink Freud; Shistr
The Talking Hours
Red Mesa feat. Kristen Rad; Desert Records tent; Bootleg Bradley.