Marfa’s 2,000-plus citizens generate hearsay and rumor 100 miles north of the Mexican border in a ranch town-turned-boho artist community. “Watch for the alien Marfa Lights,” some say. “Marfa was developed by Donald Judd, this insane modernist sculptor,” says another. “David Byrne loves to play there,” says a third.
Booking a show in Marfa requires persistence. At a loss to find a venue, I called the local bookstore to seek advice. “Well,” said the bookstore clerk. “You need to call Carlos. He’s in a band in town.” The clerk gave me Carlos’s number. I called Carlos. His number didn’t work.
I called the bookstore again. “Carlos’s number doesn’t work,” I said. “Do you have another number for Carlos?” The clerk gave me Carlos’s work number. I left a message for Carlos at work. Carlos works at a restaurant. I thought it improbable he would call me back.
Unbelievably, Carlos called back. “We’d love do a show,” Carlos said. “You can play with my band at Ray’s or Joe’s.”
I was ecstatic. “Great!” I exclaimed. “Which is better, Ray’s or Joe’s?”
Carlos hesitated. “It’s the same place,” he said. “Some people call it Ray’s, but some people call it Joe’s.”
“What?” I said.
Last night, I realized my dream and played in Marfa at Ray’s/Joe’s. I also visited an art museum, a cemetery, a pizza place, and thanked clerks at the bookstore for putting me in touch with Carlos. My bandmates and I personally invited many Marfa-ites to our show. Most came, danced, bought our CDs, then engaged us in conversations about aesthetics.
“I enjoy the repetition,” a friendly gentleman said. “Very meditative.”
“My audio installations do not fit in with the art around here,” claimed a woman critical of local sculptor machismo. “‘Dude objects’ are made here.”
Of course, a bunch of arty folk can’t move to the middle of Texas and expect a smooth transition. “Ranchers were pushed out and the town was dying before Judd came,” said Ray, whose father Joe built Ray’s/Joe’s in 1955 before Marfa’s unexpected gentrification. “But houses are expensive.”
Still, I refuse to be cynical about a place where I can find an appreciative audience by walking down the street. That shit won’t fly on the Lower East Side.