By August Edwards
For the first time in over a year, the Launchpad's patio was filled with people who came for the sole purpose of listening to live music. This two-act show featured Russian Girlfriends and Stella Martinez of Gunsafe and took place Friday, May 14th. It was announced earlier that week.
After a warm welcome from doorman Scott Moss and then seeing Barney Lopez and Joe Anderson behind the bar, I sunk into a state of golden familiarity (or, "rose" instead of "sunk," but it definitely felt like settling in to a comfortable old chair). It truly felt like I was at the Launchpad just yesterday.
Though I was stoked to see so many familiar faces - I wasn't even aware that I knew that many people - the one part that left me catching my breath was talking with people. There were mutual lulls in conversation, sort of awkward with loud subtext that read "Where to begin after a fucking year?" Nonetheless, it was empowering to get back into the swing of things.
I arrived to the show early enough to admire how the disco ball above the stage made the walls dance. I don't remember the disco ball being utilized in shows prior, though I probably never arrived at a show as early as I did that night.
(It should be noted that all photos from this night were taken on a Cricket Wireless phone. Thank you for your understanding in advance.)
The stage was impeccably clean. Probably the cleanest it will be until the arrival of the next world-terminating virus. Sound engineer of the night Andrew Godfrey buzzed over the stage hours before the show began. The first soundcheck of the night went to the opening act - Stella Martinez. I watched from the upstairs perch.
The show did begin later than it would have if it was a four- or five-set night, and the only reason this bugged was because I was itching to hear something loud, live, and good like never before. While it presented a good opportunity to be apart of the scenery I so missed - watch people (my true calling), smell that Launchpad smell, listen to friendly conversations - the entire audience was ready by the time Russian Girlfriends took the stage for soundcheck.
Maybe it was the best soundcheck in local show history. Even vocalist/guitarist Ian Jarrell exclaimed that it was the "best sound check ever!" before exiting, leaving the audience begging for more.
We were well past 9pm when Stella from Gunsafe officially stepped to the mic. She spoke to the audience between songs, definitely leaning into the shared, alien feeling of being brought together for music. "I feel like a feral coyote," she said in regard to being indoors with a large group of people.
Gunsafe, who are recording an album in the next month, are self-described as face melt torch country, and this is something Stella delivered all on her own. Really, I swear her voice totally rang through the entire cosmos. The crowd loved Stella and she seemed to love the crowd. Her set did leave me with tears in my eyes.
And on to the headliner.
It was drummer Greg Silva's first live show with the band. Silva sported a noticeable limp due to a recent foot injury. He'd been on crutches and a boot for over a week, but removed the boot for the show. He said it was fine, so long as he wasn't really standing on it. And now, here it is on record that this critical injury did not result in a faltering performance - he really pulled through!
I didn't take any notes during Russian Girlfriends's set. I snapped two pictures right in the beginning of the first song. Time passed like lightning and I couldn't rip myself away from the music being spun before me.
Maybe it was easy to be engrossed with a punk band after a year void of intimacy and loud noises.
I think everyone who goes to shows in Albuquerque is truly there for the music and experience of a live performance. I really do think everyone cares. Even if people get sloppy drunk, I think they're still there for the right reasons. And as I said before, it really did feel like no time had passed at all from March of 2020.
How lucky we all are, those of us who have made it this far. I can't imagine the personal struggles everyone on stage and in the audience had to endure just to make it to that night. It's not something I take for granted. We're here.
First Launchpad show of the year earned 5/5 stars.