Rock music history is littered with supergroups and friend records (not exactly bands, but brief collectives). Glorietta is kind of the former, more the latter; supergroup implies major fame for all or some of the members, and as much as I think they all deserve nationwide recognition, their achievements are all strongly in the indie musicverse. The talents behind those achievements were clearly on display at the Rock and Roll Hotel recently.
Glorietta claims at least six members with a small handful of additional collaborators — Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit (and some amazing solo songs, including the stupid-good “Sierra Blanca”), David Ramirez (go buy We’re Not Going Anywhere at your nearest opportunity), Kelsey Wilson (of Wild Child, who brought a storm-colored sunset to Canton Waterfront in September and will return to Baltimore to usher in December), Noah Gundersen (who played the 9:30 club a year ago and is an absolute powerhouse songwriter), Adrian Quesada (of Brownout and a Grammy-award winning producer), and Jason Robert Blum (emotive Austin songwriter with a gift for mixing a world-weary ennui with wry smiles and sips of tequila). Oh, and Nathaniel Rateliff and a couple members of the Night Sweats rounded out the recording project, along with, one must assume from the press releases, tequila and plenty of other forms of mind-altering substances.
The spearhead of the group is Matthew Logan Vasquez, who called everyone on New Year’s Day, connecting a bunch of musicians who either knew each other kind of well or just knew of each other (with Vasquez as a common thread).
The story is that Matthew sold a 1975 Fender Super Reverb to Quesada on Craigslist, they went to David’s show to hang with him, and the best tequila-soaked idea of the night — recording a record with buddies — stuck in Vasquez’s mind.
They convened in a dilapidated house on the outskirts of Santa Fe in an area called Glorieta (note the difference in spelling, yeah?), everyone bringing the literal and figurative baggage of touring musicians. They got lost in the haze of good times and great music, and recorded an incredible album.
Listen to the self-titled album by Glorietta on Bandcamp:
So the question becomes, does that continue into the live show? Glorietta coasted into DC on Friday for a night at the Rock and Roll Hotel, raising all the old ghosts of the funeral parlor and exhorting the audience to have a damn good time. They started (fashionably?) late, soundcheck finishing and doors opening at showtime’s slated beginning, but nobody appeared to mind. With the stage already covered in fog and well-haunted by the promise of a good night, the crowd slowly pushed to the stage, a bottle of tequila propped among the instruments.
The show began with a string of Glorietta rockers. Jason Robert Blum guided the audience through “Loser’s Lament” with tequila in a plastic cup. He announced after the song — perhaps I should say confessed — that he began his years nearby in Gaithersburg, Maryland, not in Texas like almost everybody else, telling us to keep it a secret. Then the band worked its way through “Golden Lonesome,” the heartland genius of “Hard Way,” and the riff-heavy and topical “Heatstroke” (the whole place was burning with life).
They brought the tempo back down — a theme for the night, bouncing between high and low energy — for Jason’s song “Wemberley,” which we learned is also Kelsey Wilson’s hometown. This song brought the first moment when we just knew how much the band members loved each others’ songs and music, as Kelsey and Matthew smiled and sang along silently while Jason helmed the mic. Kelsey followed with an absolutely stunning rendition of her song, “Sinking Ships,” which David Ramirez told the audience made them all want to call their mothers the first time they heard it.
Glorietta slinked through a few more songs, including the heartrending “Stranger’s Bed,” the sauntering “Easy Come, Easy Go” — during which one of Jason’s old bandmates from decades ago came onstage to play David’s guitar — and “I Know,” the half-set, pre-solo closer. Most of the band walked off the stage to leave David to play a song by himself, with Noah Gundersen rejoining him to sing “Someday.” David then walked off the stage, leaving Noah alone in the corner of the stage. He told us that it feels a little hard being the only one not from Texas in the band, sharing that he’d play a song from his hometown (Seattle). He then strummed, growled, and shouted his way through a little old ditty by Nirvana (you know, the one about being entertained). Then, part of the band rejoined him to sing “Lincoln Creek”; I’m not sure if it was tequila, beer, or teardrops, but something sure splashed gently to the floor.
The last planned solo act was Matthew, although he didn’t sing a song by himself at all. He hopped onto the stage with the bassist and drummer and tore through a pair of absolute rockers, including some ZZ Top. The rest of the band came on out for “Mindy” and the ever-inappropriate but always-appropriate “Red Fish.” They closed the set with “Las Estrellas,” imploring the audience to dance with the people around you, as all of the band members found dance partners.
Kelsey noticed a young boy without a partner, jumping off the stage to dance with him while the band played. Matthew then noticed a woman without a partner and joined Kelsey in the audience. As the song rounded to a close, they bounded back onstage and said their first good night. When the band returned, everyone stood in front of the mics, including the offstage members, to sing “Friends” from the record, a paean to camaraderie and fellowship — and in their way, to the mischief of good times. The song ended, and then the set closed to “Friends in Low Places,” an all-timer Garth Brooks song that anybody with half an ear can sing and love. They traded verses, and eventually, David pulled the mic offstage and trawled into the audience, finding singalong partners and new friends. We all sang with him, bleary-eyed and clear as can be.
Here are some photos of Glorietta performing at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Oct. 19, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Matt Ruppert.
David Ramirez shredding
Matthew Logan Vasquez as an 80s hair band superstar
The honorary eighth member of the band
Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child
Noah Gundersen and Matthew Logan Vasquez dancing
Jason Blum’s old friend joining the band onstage
Noah Gundersen roaring to be entertained
Matthew Logan Vasquez encouraging the audience to sing the lyrics