New Mexico Star Highlights July 4th Jams

SOCORRO, N.M. June 29, 2011 – One of New Mexico’s most popular musicians is returning to Socorro for the annual July 4 bash at Tech.

Tobias Rene is a featured performer at the July 4 extravaganza at New Mexico Tech.
Tobias Rene is headlining this year’s 4th of July celebration, with a stellar line-up of local musicians putting on a crowd-pleasing show.

Doug Figgs, Rob Lopez, Kyle Martin and Tori Murillo, all with Socorro connections, front an entertainment package that includes strolling magicians and jugglers, patriotic band marches and martial arts demonstrations.

The guitar-picking singers and backup musicians combine seasoned talent with stage presence, a mix that’s hard to beat.

“Getting’ to do the 4th – that’s like Carnegie Hall for Socorro,” said Lopez, lead guitarist with The Rob Lopez Experiment. The group is known for playing “fire-breathing rock and roll.”

“We’ve got a terrific lineup for this year’s celebration, guaranteed to light the fuse of any fan of rock, country, Spanish and western music,” said Ronna Kalish, director of New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series and event coordinator.

Best of all, the music and entertainment is free to all. As a bonus, non-profit groups will be selling food, drinks and trinkets, and Chartwells will be grilling up burgers, chicken and brat platters. The first 50 NMT graduate students and their immediate families, and 100 undergraduates (students only) will get free meals, courtesy of campus student clubs.

“Kids look forward to the jumping balloons and never seem to tire of the water slide, both great ways to burn off energy and then cool off on what is always one of the warmest days of the year,” said Kalish: “Unless it rains.”

No matter how many times it’s said, it bears repeating: “Please, please, leave your personal fireworks at home,” Kalish said. “The annual 4th of July fireworks show is the only one allowed on campus, and we want to make sure we have a safe holiday this year and always.”

The City of Socorro, plus many local businesses, supplies the bucks, just as New Mexico Tech’s pyrotechnics experts have provided the bangs, for the traditional nighttime display since the event started over a half-century ago.

Festivities officially open at 11 a.m. on a traditional note with a repertoire of patriotic music, from Sousa marches to the national anthem, by the Socorro Community Band, led by musician-physician Eileen Comstock.

At noon, Bokay Maiga will lead his students in demonstrating Twai Kwan Do techniques, followed by an exhibition by members of the New Mexico Tech Martial Arts Club.

Santa Fe-based Clan Tynker, a family of siblings, will showcase a wide variety of talents in a whimsical old world, vaudeville-style of entertainment at 1 p.m. Clan Tynker brings a combination of stage magic, comedy, juggling, unicycle riding and stilt walking.

Clan Tynker is a Santa Fe-based vaudeville troupe that has performed in Socorro several times.

“This fun and lively show will delight audiences of all ages, and has been particularly popular with families,” Kalish said.

Country musician and former Socorroan Kyle Martin takes the stage at 1:45 p.m., with original songs from a new CD, “Child of the Wild West,” as well as covers of hit favorites, including the melodic “Lights of Albuquerque,” which pays homage to a city he now calls home.

“Kyle has played in concerts near and far, and has a solid fan base in Socorro,” Kalish said. “He is a great musician, and we’re glad to have him back for the 4th.”

Another homegrown band Tori and the Murillo Brothers, which starts at 3 p.m. with a mix of country, Spanish cumbias and 70’s rock.

Tori, 24, represents the third generation of the Murillo family continuing the musical tradition established by her late grandfather, George Murillo Sr., a popular piano player in Socorro for many years. She has been singing since the age of two, joined her family onstage at 15, plays piano and gives both voice and piano lessons.

On lead guitar and providing both lead and backup vocals is Patrick Murillo, 48, who has been playing in public since the age of 13 with several local bands including Los Alegres, Six-Pack Series, the Flex 5, Night Shift and Nite Fall.

Tori Murillo fronts the band Tori and the Murillo Brothers, which will perform at 3 p.m. Monday at Tech.

Tony Telles has played bass guitar for over 30 of his 59 years, dating back to his teen dance band years in Tularosa. He moved to Socorro after a four-year stint in the Navy, and since then has performed with a variety of local musicians on bass guitar and lead and backup vocals

Drummer Gavin Torres, 23, is the newest member of the group. He is a Socorro native and New Mexico Tech graduate. He began his music career in seventh grade, moving up to a complete drum set a year later, and in high school performed with the marching, concert and jazz bands.

Every band has its leader, and for this family-based ensemble, that role belongs to Richard, 52, whose repertoire includes rhythm and bass guitar, trumpet and lead and backup vocals. Murillo first played trumpet in the seventh grade with the Socorro public school music program, and continued throughout high school. He picked up bass guitar in the early 1980s and has some keyboard and drum experience.

His trumpet skills earned him a place with a group called “Constant Funk” during his Army years, 1977-1981, later joining a variety of local bands including the Bandits and Emerald Blue. Murillo and Patrick played together with Los Alegres, Six-Pack Series, the Flex 5, Night Shift and Nite Fall.

Continuing with the local lineup is Doug Figgs, who not only is a great vocalist and guitar player, but also a man who has lived the cowboy life with his wife, Cathy, in Lemitar where he has shoed, trained, reared and sold horses since 1987.

Doug Figgs and Cowboy Way hit the stage at 4:30 p.m., and hear his musical interpretations of Western and country classics that have made Figgs a favorite with regional audiences.

“My dad always played music, as did all of my brothers and sisters when I was growing up,” Figgs said. “I liked music by Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins, along with some of the country rock and southern rock bands like the Marshall Tucker Band, Pure Prairie League, Allman Brothers, Poco and the Eagles.”

Rob Lopez has been playing rock 'n' roll in Socorro for more than 20 years. His latest band, the Rob Lopez Experiment, will close the show Monday.

Fans can expect to hear “Folsom Prison Blues, “Fire on the Mountain,” and several Mike Blakely selections, and even one made popular by James Taylor.

The King of New Mexico Music and the Tobias Rene Band pull out all the stops with a highly energetic stage show beginning at 6 p.m.

Rene has headlined shows in Las Vegas, Houston, San Antonio, New York City and Louisiana. He is making inroads as a crossover Spanish singer after signing with an independent Nashville label.

He found early popularity in his home state; and now, at 33, his career is on full throttle mode as he works hard to maintain his standing as one of New Mexico’s hottest tickets on the market, and to conquer new ones.

It’s a tough act to follow, but as the closing performance, set to begin at 8:30 p.m., the Rob Lopez Experiment is up to the task. Lopez, a seasoned Socorro musician, knows his way around the riffs and licks of hard rock music, and enjoys a reputation as a crowd-pleasing performer.

He’s played guitar since the age of 11, and for 24 years practiced at home. “Once I played for people, it got so much better,” Lopez said. “We play classic hard rock and roll, and enjoy every gig.”

The band includes Timmy Silva, who was a cohort of Lopez’s among the field crews at New Mexico Tech, where Silva still works. Lopez calls Silva “the plumber drummer.”

Rounding out the Experiment is Pete Goering, a blacksmith who plays fretless bass. Ten years ago, Lopez and Goering played live on 96.3 FM, “The Buzzard,” with Slammin’ Sam Cornette, the disk jockey drummer.

Lopez was the heavy equipment operator at New Mexico Tech for 20 years until he was sidelined with a back injury. “So I traded hard rock, the ‘M’ Mountain and heavy metal bulldozers for hard rock and roll with guitars instead of hydraulics,” he said. “I do miss my Tonka toys, though.”

Not all the lights and smoke will be aerial – Donnie Tripp has been doing a concert light show for Lopez and crew for over a year, and has a spectacular display planned for the 4th.

“It’s a great honor to play for the 4th, especially for my home town,” Lopez said, adding that he has even been practicing the National Anthem. Among his former bands are Wrecking Crew and the Scallywags.

After dusk – about 9:30 p.m. – the show takes to the skies, by way of the ears, with a series of bright lights and booms, heralding the start of the fireworks display.

“This year’s celebration is jam-packed with high-energy entertainment at every turn,” Kalish said. “We’re hoping for a great turnout for this spectacular lineup.”

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech