Serving the High Plains

Strike up the 'Bands'

In recent days, Tucumcari's historic railroad depot has been converted into a television studio and production center for the forthcoming "Bands of Enchantment" television music series that begins shooting this week.

Ken C. Peterson, the show's creator and Elkhorn Entertainment's executive producer and vice president of development, on Friday showed the transformation of the depot's interior.

The depot's east wing, which serves as the main performing space for music acts, was packed with lighting rigs, cameras, editing equipment, sound diffusers and newly created set pieces of railroad signs and Route 66 shields.

It also includes the Tucumcari Motel neon sign from the New Mexico Route 66 Museum and Tucumcari MainStreet's recently acquired "Motel" neon sign that once hung at motels on U.S. 54 and Route 66 the city.

An adjoining hallway was lined with snacks for the visiting music artists. Artifacts for the Tucumcari Railroad Museum in the depot's middle and west wing had been moved so the 10-member Elkhorn Entertainment crew could set up a green room, interview area, dressing rooms, logistics center and rehearsal space. It even set up a COVID-19 rapid-testing area.

The depot will serve as the main stage for "Bands of Enchantment," which its producers envision as a New Mexico version of PBS' long-running "Austin City Limits" music series. Shooting began there Tuesday and will continue for the next week and a half for the show's first four 30-minute episodes.

Acoustic performances also will be shot at the Tucumcari Historical Museum, Blue Swallow Motel, Motel Safari and the Odeon Theatre.

These are the acts who will perform in the depot, plus aforementioned locations around the city for acoustic sets:

• Max Gomez, a singer-songwriter from Taos;

• Lilly Hiatt, a Nashville artist who is the daughter of singer-songwriter John Hiatt;

• Junior Mesa, a California-based artist who was signed to Lizzo's label;

• Southern Avenue, a Memphis-based soul and blues quintet;

• Lydia Loveless, an Ohio-based alternative country singer-singer;

• Brett Dennen, a California-based folk-pop singer;

• The Texas Gentlemen, a Dallas-based quintet of session musicians who've backed George Strait;

• Making Movies, a rock band formed Kansas City known for Latino activism.

The production also devotes time to New Mexico music artists who will be at the new Zia Club on Second Street. Confirmed to perform there are Carlos Medina, Micah Thunder and Levi Platero.

Peterson said the performances would be in closed sets with no audience, primarily because of COVID-19 safeguards.

"Moving forward, we'll probably use venues that can hold people," he said. "But because of COVID, we wanted to do something unique, and I believe this venue offers that."

"Bands of Enchantment" will post photos from the production on its social-media platforms.

He added the depot quickly rose to the top of possible Tucumcari shooting locations.

"We like it because it's beautiful and unique," he said. "It's something that's going to put this music show on a different level, a different experience."

Peterson said his company originally hadn't planned on using the entire depot building but quickly realized its space was needed. He expressed gratitude to Tucumcari MainStreet director Connie Loveland for letting them do so.

Peterson also praised local restaurateur and city commissioner Todd Duplantis for providing meals to his crew and especially City Manager Mark Martinez for his efforts in getting the production to Tucumcari.

"You hear the old phrase that it takes a village," Peterson said. "With this, it takes a town. This would not be possible without the people of Tucumcari. We're really excited to be here."

"Bands of Enchantment" in October received up to $60,000 in city lodgers' tax funds to produce four of eight episodes for the series. Elkhorn will cover the rest of the cost through sponsorships.

Elkhorn will provide a private screening Friday to city commissioners and other city officials of the first episode. The commission has scheduled during a special meeting for later that evening whether to use lodgers tax funds to fund four more episodes. City officials were given a walk-through tour of the production site Thursday.

"Bands of Enchantment" will be broadcast on New Mexico PBS stations, RFD-TV's Cowboy Channel and the Amazon Prime streaming service. Altogether, it would mean a potential audience of tens of millions of viewers - and possible future tourists to Tucumcari.

Peterson expressed optimism the city commission will greenlight four more episodes and already was looking forward to doing more shooting of "Bands of Enchantment" in Tucumcari.

"We were overwhelmed with all of the possible locations here," he said. "We definitely have all of Season 2 picked up, fingers crossed."

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