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Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine


I’m

in the home of local musician Jesse Anderson. It’s a charming, timberframed house with warm natural light and a colorful interior. But Jesse leads me out of the welcoming living room, downstairs into a laundry den. “Check this out.” He motions excitedly to a wall of diagonal wooden slats. “Ammo boxes,” he explains. On close inspection, I see faint numbers and codes marked onto the aged wood. “In the 1940s they built a bunch of these houses out of old ammo boxes from the war.” Jesse beams, showing off this dark little corner with pride. While other hosts might try to impress a guest with fine art, a new car or other signs of wealth and success, Jesse chooses to show me a wall. His prized possession is not riches or status, but roots. He’s embedded in history, and his ammo box home is just one piece of proof. Other evidence emerges when we sit down in the backyard to talk tunes. In 1998 Jesse moved to Flagstaff, and he soon found a community that shared an interest in the past. “I got involved with the [Flagstaff ] Friends of Traditional Music,” he tells me. Now an established nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and preservation of traditional American music, Friends was a casual club in its early days. “Back then it was pretty loose,” Jesse says. “There were monthly contra dances ... two campouts a year ... concerts. ... It was just kind of an informal thing.” Contra dance, sometimes called New England Folk Dance or Appalachian Folk Dance, is a social dance with a heritage going back to 17th-century France, England and Scotland. Like his ammo box house, contra dance has history to boot. While still hosting contra dances, Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music has grown and evolved to boast a more extensive catalog of happenings, including the Flagstaff Folk Festival 10

Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine

and Pickin’ in the Pines, the annual September bluegrass and acoustic music festival that draws people near and far. When it comes to the folk festival, Jesse has supported the event as either volunteer, organizer or performer “every year, for better or worse,” since 2001. Similarly, he’s found ways to consistently contribute to Pickin’ in the Pines. Surprisingly, when I ask about the work that people like Jesse put into these events, he reveals, “It’s all volunteer.”

Justifying his annual voluntary toil, Jesse offers, “It’s important for the community to have this tradition. ... Community events that happen periodically help give a place a sense of identity.” Evidently, this sense of community importance is shared, as both the Flagstaff Folk Festival and Pickin’ in the Pines have found sustained success that Jesse suggests can be explained by the dedication of the volunteers. “Through several generations of organizers, they’ve


all been really dedicated to the festival, and they’ve all really made it a part of themselves.” This year, Jesse will perform at Pickin’ on Friday, part of a threeday lineup that also includes the Del McCoury Band, Béla Fleck, The Infamous Stringdusters, Seldom Scene, Jeff Austin Band, Dom Flemons and more. As a performer, Jesse’s instrument of choice is the banjo. After bringing one out of his collection, he wastes no time in telling how the banjo fits into antiquity and tradition. “There’ve been books written about it,” he says. “Banjo-like instruments were brought over from Africa on slave ships by slaves … and they were played by them for a long time. They don’t have any instruments of that era, but there are a few paintings of them. I think there’s a painting of someone playing one on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation.” Jesse pauses in brief ref lection, then adds, “It’s kind of a long and sordid tale. … At some point white people started playing them, partially because they shared space, and partially because of the minstrel show ... and somewhere in that transition [banjo] necks acquired frets.” Around that time, the modern banjo, sometimes called the only true American instrument, was born. When it comes to banjo music, Jesse is equally learned. He tells me: “There are basically two camps of banjo style— bluegrass three-finger-style and what they call ‘old time.’” Both of these styles, Jesse explains, “are regimented in the technique. ... It’s essential that you do certain things.” After demonstrating his adeptness at both styles, Jesse jokes, “[For bluegrass] you have to keep your pinky planted on the [banjo] head, and my pinky can’t go straight. ... I was born that way so I guess I can’t play bluegrass.” Then he adds, “And I don’t really play old time because I can’t grow a beard.” Smiling cheekily, Jesse goes on to admit that he doesn’t necessarily hold himself to the strict regiments of traditional banjo playing. “I was always interested in trying to play with anything, in any musical situation I got into.” When asked if a loose interpretation of the ‘rules’ threatens the preservation of traditional music, Jesse smiles and refers to Bob Dylan’s address after his infamous use of an electric guitar at

the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. “You can’t kill traditional music,” Jesse says. “These songs have been around, some of them since Shakespeare’s time, and they can’t be slaughtered.” Finishing the thought, he picks up his instrument and chirps, “Here’s one!” before launching into a jaunty, almost sarcastic melody. “That one always gets me.” He chuckles before adding, “That’s a tune called ‘Aura Lee,’ which was a parlor song in the 1890s. It was also the melody for ‘Love Me Tender’ by Elvis Presley. ... There’s your tradition!” I take his meaning. Tradition is what we make it. Music borrows often, and like everything else, what folds into the

definition of “traditional music” is subject to change. For Jesse, sometimes that change could come sooner. Outside of performing at local festivals, Jesse has held a steady gig on the Grand Canyon Railway since 2004. Primarily catering to tourists, the job calls for Jesse to play a tight set of traditional songs affectionately known as “trains songs.” “I’m trying to stay positive!” Jesse strains a laugh. “There’s a romanticism about trains. … I knew and know many train songs.” Yet, understandably, he’s found that playing the same songs and fielding the same requests for 14 years has its challenges. When it comes to the

“These songs have been around, some of them since Shakespeare’s time, and they can’t be slaughtered.”

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clientele, Jesse finds that “maybe their frame of what a banjo can do is pretty narrow. ... Maybe someone wants to get up and sing a song with you, and you’re like, ‘Okay! Let’s do it.’ ... And maybe they can’t sing.” Shaking his head, he snickers. “It’s a wild ride. ... The key is you’re an entertainer.” To Jesse, maintaining a professional attitude is just as important, if not more so, than playing the music well. “I really pride myself on that, and I really think people appreciate it more than most musicians realize.” His code of professionalism is simple. “Show up on time, be cleanly dressed, have your instruments ready and in tune, and roll with the punches. ... I’ve been hired for a lot of gigs where those sorts of things are more important than what you may or may not be playing.” Now bathed in the steady approach of the golden hour, our conversation relaxes. Jesse absent-mindedly plucks the strings, and evening birds begin to swoop mosquitoes in the cool air. Warmth rises from patio bricks as they return the heat borrowed from midday. From the festivals to the railroads, Jesse’s degree of involvement had me half expecting that he pursued traditional music following some grand design. However, he describes it with much more humility. “There were certain sounds that I was attracted to, then I gained the ability to perform them. Through people I met and situations I was in … I kind of ended up on this specific path.” Personally, I believe Jesse’s connection to traditional music is partially rooted in something as straightforward as an attraction to certain sounds, but I think it goes deeper. Like an ammo box house, traditional music reminds us of our place in history and of our small ability to perceive continuity as time sweeps chaotically into the future. Jesse says it best when describing the moment he stepped into an organizing role for the Flagstaff Folk Festival. Referring to his position of co-organizer, his words could easily be applied to traditional music in general. “I took it from someone else, and we handed it off to The 13th annual Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass someone else. And and Acoustic Music Festival runs Sept. 14to me, that was the 16 at Pepsi Amphitheater in Fort Tuthill greatest thing— County Park. For more information and you’re like a link in tickets, visit pickininthepines.org. a chain.” 12

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accessible, he introduced three-course prix fixe events. To date, guests have supped on Spanish, Italian and French menus. This night, it was Portugal with its rich history. The meal began with rustic bread on an aspen board, replete with anchovy butter and staged with a wheat and blossom spray. The cook’s garden is filled with herbs and edible flowers. Caldo verde served as the starter— lumps of house-made chouriço, chorizo sausage brightened with red pepper, floating in puréed soup topped with chiffonade chard and buoyant beads of olive oil. We indulged in the wine pairings, all house blends. The Pluma Vinho Verde 2016 provided an effervescent, floral sip. Salt cod is an excellent example of Konefal’s desire to translate authentic recipes—he has an affinity for old cookbooks—into an appreciative dish. The cod is soaked extendedly before lightly cooking it in milk. Add garlic, whisperthin fingerling potatoes, olive oil, and then, top the terrine with tomato confit and fresh thyme for a modernized peasant dish. A light, fruity vinho rose, composed of Bonavita 2015 and Aliança 2017, accompanied the cod. An egg yolk tart comprised dessert, both common and complementary. A bit of lore: It is believed that egg whites were used to clarify wine, so monasteries, which first produced liquid heaven in a glass, proffered custards for sale, made from surplus yolks. Scoop rich vanilla gelato, brushed with cinnamon, alongside the pastel de nata, and breathe the tawny aroma of Porto Kopke in a fine toast to our Portugal visit. Alma and Herman Fermia dined on the Portuguese menu and raved about the posh feast. High praise from former New York City residents, who compared the attention and skill of this mountain town cafe to the Big Apple. After eight years building his brand with Coppa Cafe, Konefal said, “I am blessed to cook whatever I want for a loyal and local clientele, exposing them to more, as I build the business to be all I envision.” Coppa Cafe, 1300 S. Milton Road #107, is open for happy hour and dinner Monday through Saturday and offers Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (928) 637-6813 for reservations.

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Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine


Flagstaff resident Faith Aguirre now works at Guardian Medical Tranport after receiving her EMS training at Coconino Community College. She is currently in the Paramedicine program at CCC. “CCC has really great instructors. They’re experienced in the courses they teach and help you improve your skills so you are successful.”

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OUTDOOR LIFE

T

Photo by Evan Burris

Red Mountain

EXPOSED An unusual view of a cinder cone By Larry Hendricks

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Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine

hick-trunked junipers and stunted pinyon pines bathe in sunlight as the sky builds with fattening monsoon clouds. A stiff breeze dries the sweat on the back of the neck, keeps the body cool and aggressive flies at bay. Reddish dirt coats the shoes, and the thick fragrance of mountain flowers tickle the nose. A rusted iron cut, as if a giant used a cleaver on the landscape, bisects the mountain and reveals the fascinating geologic beauty that typifies this part of northern Arizona. My work colleague and friend Evan Burris and I are on the trail at Red Mountain. It is an easy outing north west of Flagstaff that few people make, opting instead to stay in the car and head for the Grand Canyon. They are missing out. According to information from the U.S. Geological Survey, Red Mountain is a 740,000-year-old cinder cone volcano situated among hundreds of other cinder cones in the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Unlike most cinder cone volcanoes, Red Mountain’s guts are exposed to the world, revealing the geologic processes that took place in creating the rugged landscape. The trail gradually rises toward the mountain and the “amphitheater” nestled at the base of 800-foot reddish-brown cliffs. The creation of the amphitheater is shrouded in mystery to geologists. How it happened, they don’t entirely know. The trail dips into a wash, and we follow the wash in between cinder mounds toward the shade of the amphitheater. Before we arrive at the large hollow, I suggest we climb the cinders to the east to get a better view of the volcanic field that stretches across the plateau. Hiking up loose cinders is a chore, with every two steps up leading to a brutal slide back, over and over, until the lungs burn. Eventually, we hit the ridge and are rewarded with a higher view of Red Mountain and an unobstructed view toward Slate Mountain, Kendrick Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks. The panoramic view, complete with dancing clouds gathering steam for a monsoon rain, takes the breath away. Birdsong and insect buzz play on the breeze, and as Evan and I stroll through the dense brush clinging for dear life on the ridge’s cindery soil, we spot deer and antelope scat. After a heart-thumping descent of sliding and slipping, we land back in the wash, climb a small ladder and head into the amphitheater. The area is filled with large stone structures


Photos by Larry Hendricks

called “hoodoos” topped with solid rocks for hats. The cliff walls are pockmarked with holes and little caves, which according to the USGS, is the result of water and wind erosion. Green, sandstone red and dark grays are featured in nature’s color palette here. The amphitheater is cooler than the sun-exposed hike from the trailhead. We hike along the sandy trail to the southeastern corner. Evan shows me a chimney of rock that we climb to get interesting views of the exposed volcanic material worn nearly smooth in areas by running water. Other hikers sit in shaded areas and gaze at the unusual rock formations all around. Clouds, white and graying with rain, pass overhead making the light in the amphitheater dance. I marvel at the surreal imagination of the creative force used to make Red Mountain. We gaze about with mouths open and eyes wide. Once rested from the heat and renewed with water, we head back.

As Evan and I amble to the trailhead, we come upon a man with children. They stare at the ground and point at a horned toad scurrying through the duff and stones. Evan scoops up the small reptile and holds it out for the children to touch. They approach cautiously, not entirely sure if it’s all right to touch the fearsomelooking little creature. A hand reaches out and brushes the barbs on the toad’s skin. “The horns are soft,” says one little boy, surprised. After the children have their fill, Evan sets the horned toad in a shaded spot off the trail, and we head on our way back to the car. I make the decision to return on a cloudless, moonless night. The hoodoos will make a wonderful photographic landscape against the immensity of the Milky Way.

If you go …

Red Mountain Trail No. 159 Length: Three miles round trip—a great hike for children. Dogs are allowed on leash. Difficulty: Easy—less than 500 feet elevation gain, unless you try to scramble up a cinder hill. Directions: From Flagstaff, take U.S. Highway 180 toward the Grand Canyon for about 25 miles. Make a left at milepost 247. The dirt road goes about a quarter-mile and ends at a small parking area for the trail. september18 namlm.com

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SPOTLIGHT

Pictured from left: Teresa Wayne, operations; Linda Mack, talent; and Julie Sullivan Brace, artistic director

have a flat-picking guitar workshop or harmony singing workshop or a workshop on comparative banjo styles, so people can get a feel for this unique style of truly American music. What’s something different we can expect at this year’s Pickin’?

The Directors of Pickin’ in the Pines

It takes a lot of effort to put on one of Flagstaff’s most popular music festivals, especially when each of the lead organizers is a volunteer. This month we chat with the three ladies responsible for this “Best of Flag” event that has gained wide recognition in its 13 years.

certainly looking at a capacity crowd for Saturday. In the campground, there will be over 1,000 campers.

There have been a few from Germany, Australia, Great Britain. … Yeah, they come from all over. We would say we’re regional in that we definitely get a lot of people from Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and California. Bluegrass people will travel far and wide to go to festivals, so we get people from the Southeast, the Northeast and elsewhere. They make a thing of it, a vacation of it.

The aim of an event like this is entertainment and fun, but does it have other objectives?

Describe the experience of the Pickin’ in the Pines festival. It’s nonstop. It’s a long weekend. The campground opens on Thursday, and everyone moves in there, creates a little community out there, and it’s just a nonstop musical weekend. We start pickin’ Thursday night. The bands begin on Friday, and then it’s just back-to-back music and fun. There are a lot of returning attendees, so it’s also like a family reunion. From how far away do people come to attend?

How many people will attend? Pepsi Amphitheater can hold 3,300. That’s what we’re looking at this year. We’re

Yes. There’s an education piece to the festival and exposing people to old-time bluegrass and to the new progressive bluegrass. … This is a very unusual genre. There’s this component of people in the campground, where people go and play together and share this common language. You go get in a circle with people you may have never met, and someone can say, “Hey, play ‘Rocky Top,’” and everyone can play it. We also have workshops where you can increase your skills. We might

On Friday night we have the Grateful Ball. It’s two bands, The Travelin’ McCourys and the Jeff Austin Band. They’re both going to play a set, and then they’ll come together and play Grateful Dead songs. It will be a jammy Grateful Dead throwback in a bluegrass acoustic style. What artist are you most looking forward to hearing this year? Béla Fleck and also the Grateful Ball. But you know, we also have The Infamous Stringdusters back, and they always put on an incredible show. What kind of effort and time goes into planning this festival. Whew! We’ve been asked that a lot. It’s tough to quantify. We started meeting right after the festival last year and have met almost every week since then. It’s really a nonstop effort. We touch it every day, and we all have real full-time jobs. september18 namlm.com

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Northern Arizona's Mt. Living Magazine | Sept 2018  
Northern Arizona's Mt. Living Magazine | Sept 2018