We couldn’t have hoped for a more beautiful day in Taos, New Mexico as the Music on the Mesa festival wrapped up its 3 day run on Sunday June 4. It was upper 70s with a cool breeze blowing as the crowd assembled before the main Amphitheatre stage backed by the gorgeous Sangre de Cristo mountains. On this day it really did seem that there was a magic in the air that could take us higher and it was made even more palpable by the crystal altar that was set up on stage just before Railroad Earth came out.
On this evening the band featured usual members Todd Sheaffer, Tim Carbone, Carey Harmon, John Skehan and Andrew Altman with the addition of Hot Buttered Rum’s Erik Yates filling in for multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling who has been out recently to deal with a health issue.
Yates came out carrying a flute and it seemed that most in attendance knew that meant we’d soon be Smilin’ Like a Buddha.
The mystical, rockin’ Buddha led into another crowd pleaser that saw the dance party continue – Chasin’ a Rainbow. The ending jam of Chasin’ featured a blistering Todd Sheaffer solo as did many of tonight’s songs. The third song of the night was the new tune, Blazin’ a Trail and tonight would also feature two other new ones, the Tim Carbone-led Raven’s Child and Sheaffer’s folky protest number, Addin’ My Voice. After the band finished When the Sun Gets in Your Blood, Todd took to the mic to let us know that they were now going to play the song they were supposed to play before the last one but which got inadvertently skipped – “Hey Carey, Todd joked, what do you have against The Old Man and The Land?!”
After Old Man, the band launched into the beautiful love song, Right in Tune, which was followed by an intensely performed version of The Hunting Song and a bluegrassy Drag Him Down. From the very beginning of the show, there was a sense among the crowd that an Elko was in the cards tonight and people were circulating throughout the grounds giving out playing cards just in case. And what an Elko it was! Railroad Earth was joined on this version by Bill Nershi of the String Cheese Incident and Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters for a version that was liberally cheese dusted and oh so sweet.
Elko also saw the appearance of a group of dancing stilt walkers on both sides of the stage as well as among the crowd.
Next up was a rollicking version of RV during which Todd, along with a lot of the crowd, tipped their hats to Erik Yates (on flute, banjo, dobro and more) during the line “we’ll fill us up on Hot Buttered Rum” for a fabulous job filling in for the dearly loved and missed Andy Goessling. The thirteen song festival set ended as it began with another deeply spiritual tune – Seven Story Mountain.
Overall, this was just a fantastic Railroad Earth set. Leaving the show the words of Like a Buddha seemed to be still reverberating in the air “The music draws you up the valley and across a mountain . . . you gather ’round it like you’re gathering around a fountain…oh! and there’s a feelin’ runnin’ through ya – oh! and then you’re smilin’ like a Buddha!”
Railroad Earth @ Music on the Mesa Taos, NM 6/4/2017
Like a Buddha
Chasin’ a Rainbow
Blazin’ a Trail
When the Sun Gets in Your Blood
Old Man and the Land
Right in Tune
The Hunting Song
Drag Him Down
Elko (w/Bill Nershi, Chris Pandolfi, Andy Hall)
Addin’ My Voice
Seven Story Mountain