PUERTO PENASCO, MEXICO — In theory, all you need to make a rock-n-roll show work are a few guitars, some drums, mics and a couple of amps.
Over the weekend in Rocky Point, Mexico (aka Puerto Peñasco). Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers proved that large stage productions aren’t always needed to deliver a top quality rock show and energize a crowd.
Good, quality, rock-n-roll echoed over the Sea of Cortez Saturday night as one of America’s great independent bands, RCPM, along with help from Johnny Hickman — of another great rock band, Cracker — proved that magic from extremely talented musicians can be made anywhere a stage is set up, even if it’s on the back patio of a Third World cantina.
For the sixth year in row, Clyne – who is no stranger to hosting concerts in Mexico – held his annual January Jam event. What makes this concert so unique is that it’s held on the back patio of an old cantina with only a limited number of tickets sold.
The lighting was as good as it could be…which wasn’t great. The sound engineer was on stage so much adjusting mics and amps that he could have been mistaken for another band member. But the energy produced by band – and the synergy created between band and audience feeding off each other- could have powered the entire Cholla Bay area.
That raw emotion could be felt as RCPM roared through “I Know You Know,” “Counterclockwise,” “I Do,” and Refreshments classics like “Down Together,” “Banditos,” “Nada,” “Mekong,” “Preacher’s Daughter” and “Interstate.” The band dusted off not-often-played RCPM gems like “City Girls,” “Play On” and “Never Thought” and combined that with songs from Cracker’s catalog, such as the driving “Movie Star” and “Get Off This,” both off the Kerosine Hat album.
Drummer PH Naffah somehow elevated his already outstanding playing to another level, pounding his kit with ferocious intensity for some songs, while laying down a groovy beat with bassist Nick Scropos on others, like when tour manager and birthday boy Jason Boots took the mic for a cover of Young MC’s 1989 song, “Bust a Move.” Jim Dalton and Hickman traded off blazing lead guitar riffs. And frontman Roger Clyne was in excellent vocal form all evening.
Rain and chilly temperatures threatened to put a damper on the annual outdoor event. But the skies parted at showtime, providing a magical setting of a full moon overhead, several hundred fans on the patio in front of the small stage, and another two to three dozen watching next to their bonfires on the beach.
Saturday night’s concert was night No. 2 of music. For the second year in a row, Clyne played a “solo” set indoors at Wrecked at the Reef on Friday night, eventually joined on stage by the end of the evening by all his bandmates. Hickman and Dalton’s other band – the appropriately named Hickman-Dalton Gang – kicked off the festivities before a sold out house. Only a few hundred tickets were sold for this intimate performance.
Clyne then took the stage with an acoustic guitar, and was joined one-by-one throughout the evening by the others so by the end of the show it was an acoustic jam with Clyne, Dalton, Naffah, Scropos and Hickman playing many of the RCPM and Refreshments standards, plus again pulling a few covers at the end including “The Joker” from The Steve Miller Band.
Like Clyne’s grand Mecca of Peacemaker concerts – the annual Circus Mexicus weekend in June also held in Rocky Point – the January Jam concert has grown into a full weekend of events. Clyne hosts his beach soccer tournament at Circus Mexicus in June. This year for January Jam, Naffah hosted the first Mexican Moonshine Tequila Classic nine hole golf scramble, a charity event to raise money for the local orphanage.
For fans of rock-n-roll, a trip to Rocky Point in June to see Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers and attend Circus Mexicus must be put on their bucket lists immediately.