Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
I had recently rediscovered my favorite band. They had gone independent of their record label and renamed themselves so I had lost track. I began viewing youtube videos of their shows and visiting their website for tour dates. My first trip ever as an adult would be to see them play.
Early in 2011 I had managed to save a bit of money for a trip. The band announced that they would be in Seattle sometime in April and I so wanted to go. But I had never driven in the city close to home, let alone driven onto a ferry and crossed the border to Washington. It seemed an impossible feat, for me to travel independently to Seattle by car. I didn’t think I could do it.
Circus Mexicus 2011
I browsed down the list of tour dates and my eyes fixed on Circus Mexicus. I had read about it on their website and had fantasized about being the brave type of person who would actually rent a car and drive into a little known town in Mexico (Rocky Point) to see a band playing under the stars.
They had been putting on this event every year since 2000. It had grown from a single show to a weekend party, with various other Arizona bands joining in. I reached out to Russ, an American tour operator in Rocky Point who assured me that his town was a safe place to visit. He directed me to a shuttle company that would get me from Phoenix to Rocky Point and helped me to book a condo close to the party. He was doing a tour himself from Phoenix that would include transportation to and from all of the weekend events. Russ’s tour was literally for just a weekend and I didn’t intend to go all that way without staying a week.
It always makes me laugh – the fact that I was afraid to drive myself to Seattle yet the idea of hopping on a shuttle bus for a four hour drive into Mexico didn’t frighten me.
The shuttle bus did a quick tour of the touristy area of Rocky Point before delivering me to the condo. It was a beautiful building right on the beach and the concert would be on a vacant sand lot directly in front of the condo. I was in Rocky Point for a week, arriving on Tuesday. The place was like a ghost town and I seemingly had the entire pool area to myself for a few days. I would later learn that a majority of fans came from Phoenix area and generally made it a weekend trip vs a “vacation” as I had done.
The first couple of days were rough on me. I felt lonely and isolated at the condo. The cabs in Rocky Point didn’t just hang out in front of condo buildings for fares, and having the front desk call one was hit or miss.
On my first full day got up and took a cab to the touristy area. There was a main drag littered with gift shops and several beautiful ocean front restaurant options. I had the taxi drop me a few blocks away at a coffee shop and then walked to The Malecon on my own, past the marina where they were bringing in their catches and stopping to talk to people on my way by. When I returned to the condo I felt so proud. I had “conquered” Rocky Point and felt like I could do anything even if alone. I planned that night to go on a sunset cruise. Unfortunately the cab did not arrive in time to take me. As I said, they were hit and miss. I had a mini meltdown that night and decided that Mexico was the worst place ever.
Luckily I woke up the next day with a stubborn resolve to make the trip my own. Since I could not rely on the cabs, I would rent a car.
So the girl that was afraid to drive in Seattle had determined that she was more than capable of renting a car and driving herself around Mexico.
The front desk of the condo, when asked where I might rent a car, sent me to a local junkyard where I was told all rental cars were stick shift. It just looked dodgy. I got back in the cab and the driver told me that he’d happily chauffeur me about for the day and it would only cost me $100. That wasn’t going to happen. I asked him to take me to The Malecon where I started conversation with a hotel rep and told him about my adventures in trying to rent a car. He knew exactly where I needed to go and within an hour I was being driven to the small airport about 30 minutes from town where they had a car available to rent.
Nothing could stop me once I had a car. The 30- minute drive through the Mexican desert returning to town was thrilling. I had always considered myself adventurous but it was always in the “I would do it” context, never in the “I’m DOING it” context.
Hot Dog & a Smile
Friday night was the first Circus Mexicus event of the weekend. Hot Dog and a Smile. It was a fundraiser to raise funds for the local orphanage. The drummer of the band did this event every year and was on hand to barbeque hotdogs in trade for a donation to the cause. Several bands were playing on stage throughout the night.
This event was held at JJ’s Cantina, a stunning little bar that has a million dollar view. JJ’s Cantina is in a little residential suburb of Rocky Point called Cholla Bay. I wasn’t ready to drive myself there quite yet, but was able to hitch a ride with Russ’s tour and joined with his group of fans.
The Main Event
I won’t lie, I was terrified of going to the big show alone. With my difficulty walking on uneven surfaces, how would I manage a crowded sandlot venue?
I was able to purchase a VIP add on for $20. This granted me access to a side stage area with tables, VIP bathrooms, and a VIP bar. I sat with a lady I had met the night before for the opening show, then moved myself to a spot right beside the stage. I was able to lean my weight on the stage and had nobody in front of me to block my view. It was perfect. The band came out just at dusk with the warm Mexican air and stars just beginning to shimmer. “Mexico”, of course was their first song. The crowd of 4,000 fans went crazy.
The show went on for four hours with Roger warning the crowd to pace themselves for a long night. Fireworks were set off and beach balls were being bounced in the air among the crowd. It was magical, like nothing I’d ever seen.
About halfway through the show I met a wonderful couple. Kevin and Laury were there with me, singing each song word for word. We laughed, we drank, and we sang. That’s the thing about these shows – everybody in the crowd are just friends, period. You don’t need to give your life story or credentials, if you’re a fan of the music you just belong.
As the show came to an end I began to worry about getting out of the sandlot. It was one thing coming in with the organized entry system, but leaving would likely be like any other big event – chaos. I shyly asked Laury if I could walk out with them, sharing with her that I had a disability and was worried about balancing myself on the sand on my way out. They were of course happy to help, and genuinely surprised that I had made the trip all by myself. They walked me to my condo to change and let me know their room number so I could join them and their friends for drinks.
The Hangover Bash
The third and final show of the weekend happened on Sunday. It was back to JJ’s Cantina for what was coined “the Hangover Bash”. I drove myself and got there fairly early.
Roger Clyne wasn’t playing, but all of the bands that had played at the fundraiser were to play while Roger Clyne and his band were available for autographs and meet’n greet. It was another great day. The sun was so hot, the music was wonderful, and I felt at home among the crowd.
The Hickman-Dalton Gang was a band that I discovered on this trip. Comprised of Johnny Hickman of Cracker and Jim Dalton (guitarist for Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers) they had just released their 2nd CD.
I had to leave early however, as my rental car was due back at 6pm. I had no idea that I would arrive at the hangover bash at 10 am and still be there at 6pm. The day flew past so quickly and I was leaving the next day.
It had been an amazing experience and I had met some amazing people who are, to this day, among the best people I know.