At this point, it has become cliche to start an article by pointing out the obvious—that these past few years have been unprecedented due to COVID and bands, tours, and festivals have been on hold. But Monolith on the Mesa have endured mored than most. Initially, they were dealing with the norm—cancelled show plans and a lot of downtime and rescheduling. But when co-founder Dano Sanchez passed away during the pandemic, co-founder Roman Barham was faced with the tough choice of going it alone or moving on from the festival.
In light of what he knew Sanchez would have wanted, as well as all the desert metal and doom heads hungry for more music, he decided to press on, and now, the festival is back and better than ever. We caught up with him about the fest this year and what is in store for the South West.
I’m so sorry to hear about Dano’s passing and everything you all have been through since the pandemic. How were you able to come back and build back from all this tragedy, and what does this year’s fest look like for you?
So we were supposed to have the fest in 2020, and everything was announced like a month, a month and a half before the pandemic happened, so of course, we had to cancel it. Me and Dano were thinking about other ways to do the fest, and a lot of people were doing livestream shows. We did a kind of virtual monolith where bands sent us videos to play.
So it started out like that, but then COVID got worse, and then Dano got sick and passed away. It was devastating because we had put so much work into everything, and before you know it he was sick, and before you know it, he was gone. It happened unexpectedly, and we were working on this year’s Monolith, but then I had to be there for his family to make sure they were OK. It was really just hard; I still think about him all the time. It hasn’t been a year yet, so it’s still kind of fresh this year. But I know he would want me to continue Monolith, so I’m definitely going to do it in his honor. I remember all the conversations we had and what he wanted to do with fest, all the ideas we had bouncing around, so I still use a lot of the conversations we had to inform going forward with Monolith.
It’s wonderful that you’re able to use this as an opportunity to honor his legacy.
Yep, we’ve dedicated this year to him, and this year, we’re also going to have a really cool shrine to him and some really special things for Dano and his family, so I’m excited.
In terms of new things this year, what can folks expect?
During the pandemic, there was also a fire at the brewery we partner with for the show, so they’ve been remodeling their grounds. They opened up a little bit more, and there are going to be two outdoor stages. There isn’t going to be an indoor stage this time because they make whisky, gin, and vodka now in that area and are using it for stills. There’s now a wicked patio out there, so that should be really fun this year. And both stages will have a liquid light show, so that’s going to be awesome.
Who are you most excited about on this year’s lineup?
I’m really excited about this year’s lineup, and I know Dano would have been very excited about it this year. There’s a lot of Mojave Desert legends, and of course, a bunch of really cool local bands playing. I’m excited to see Mars Red Sky because I haven’t seen them yet, and there’s going to be that liquid light show, which I’m excited for. I’m also excited to see Stoner on the big stage.
Is there anything else you want folks to take away from this or know about this year?
This is an independent music festival, and I know a lot of the bigger fests are being bought out, so I just want to say, like, support your independent festivals. It’s people who had a dream to do one, and New Mexico is a small market, but there’s just so much opportunity here and so much stuff that’s undiscovered. I want to put New Mexico on the map, and I want people to know that there’s really cool stuff going on here like music festivals, hiking, white-water rafting, all kind of cool stuff. And now we’ve legalized weed too, so that’s always nice.
Images courtesy of Monolith on the Mesa