PUERTO PENASCO, Mexico — About ten hours of live music spread out over two nights. Golf during the day for charity. Some of the best street tacos on the planet. Perfect weather.
In other words, another wildly successful January Jam weekend in Rocky Point, Mexico hosted by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
Roger and his Tempe-based crew made their 7th trek over the dusty Mexican border lands to Puerto Peñasco, also known in gringo speak as Rocky Point, on Jan. 24-25. The winter break has become one of the band’s most popular annual concerts of the year.
This year, the Friday night show included a few firsts: The show was moved to The Hut (formerly Changos) conveniently located in front of several beachside resorts. And RCPM played a set made up entirely of cover songs, also a first.
Dressed in coveralls for the all covers set (the band looked like something between Devo and Walter White’s latest help) RCPM rocked through a set list of songs mainly from the 1970s and ’80s. Highlights included Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and Greg Khin’s “The Breakup Song.”
But the best two songs of the evening may have been two of the most unique choices to make the list. Clyne and company roared through “Tear Me Down,” off the Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack. The movie became a bus favorite while the band was on tour last summer.
The second surprise was the only modern song on the set list: Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” which RCPM knocked out of the park. Seemingly everyone had a turn at singing at some point during the evening, including guitar tech Chris Kantor on “Good Times, Bad Times,” bassist Nick Scropos on Clapton’s “Cocaine,” which also included blazing dual guitar solos from Jim Dalton and special guest Harley Husbands.
An attendance record was set for the Friday night show. Though there was still plenty of elbow room in the new outdoor stage setup for people to comfortably move around.
Dalton opened with his latest side project, Jim Dalton and the Lawbreakers (Peacemakers. Lawbreakes. Get it?), which featured three-fourths of RCPM (Dalton, PH Naffah and Nick Scropos) and Husbands, the towering and talented lead guitarist from Austin-based Shurman.
The Denver Bronco poncho wearing Dalton lead his crew through a variety of rock and country songs, including tunes from his other Denver-based group, The Railbenders, as well as several rock and country covers of his own, including Social Distortion’s “Ball and Chain.”
Saturday night, the traditional concert at JJ’s Cantina overlooking Cholla Bay drew an even larger crowd. Clyne opted to go for a 3×13 show: three sets of 13 songs each. Clyne had his typical mix of RCPM and Refreshments’ classics on the set list – “Counterclockwise,” “Americano,” “Banditos,” “Green and Dumb” – Crowd favorites – “European Swallow,” “Beautiful Disaster,” “Preacher’s Daughter” – as well as cover songs from the night before.
Clyne, who is no stranger to pushing his vocal cords to the limit when he plays 28 shows in 30 days while on tour, typically singing for two hours each night, has been buried in the studio lately, trying to get RCPM’s next album ready for a spring release. That heavy workload seemed to take its toll by the end of the night at JJ’s. But Clyne still powered through the entire set list, even keeping the vocally demanding “Nada” on the list for the encore.
For the second year in a row, the January Jam weekend included the Mexican Moonshine Tequila Classic Golf Tournament, a nine-hole best-ball scramble for charity. The weather for this year’s tournament was light years better than last year’s event. All proceeds went to benefit community orphanages in Puerto Peñasco. The orphans got a little extra for their funds when one of the Los Palamos Resort directors challenged the band members to make a birdie on the last hole for a $1,000 donation. Scropos started with the great shot from the tee, and Dalton sank the putt.
The January Jam, while one of the band’s funnest events of the year, is just a warm-up for the much larger Circus Mexicus festival held each June in Rocky Point. Details on the music festival were expected to be released soon.