Most Friday nights in Los Alamos you’ll find downtown filled with music, families gathered around a bandstand, having picnics, visiting with friends and enjoying the sunset. It’s a big part of the charm of small town life in Los Alamos.
For Russ Gordon, the organizer of the Los Alamos Mainstreet Concert Series, it started out as a fun way to promote his retail store before it closed its doors in 2004. In 1991 he produced 10 concerts in a parking lot in White Rock with 15 sponsors covering the costs. In 2005 there were 35 free concerts, 3 fundraisers and more than 70 sponsors funding the $120,000 concert series.
Since the concert series is designed to be a local event, Gordon has not actively advertised to attract out-of-towners, but the names and quality of the bands has often brought visitors from around New Mexico and the four corners area. Some of the biggest names have included the Red Elvises, Dave Alvin, Tim O’Brian, and the South Austin Jug Band.
The outdoor concerts are a flurry of energy for children. Toddlers run around freely, kids dance and teens gather not far from the watchful eyes of parents. “We try to make the concerts family-oriented and are working to get more food booths and activities sponsored by businesses,” says Gordon.
To support the local businesses and sponsors, the concerts will sometimes be set up in the street or a parking lot, but most are scheduled for Ashley Pond. Also, the concerts will continue year-round and not just during the summer months this year. Gordon says he’d like to see an amphitheater constructed at the Pond to give it a downtown home. His vision also includes attracting visitors to Los Alamos with the concerts.
“I’d like folks to invite their friends and relatives to LA for a fun weekend rather than always going to the bigger towns for entertainment,” says Gordon.
Support for the concert series has been steadily growing, both in attendance and in sponsorships. Gordon says he’s contacted nearly every business in Los Alamos over the years, and he frequently gets unsolicited checks for the concerts from civic groups, businesses and community members.
Booking bands and promoting concerts has become a second career for Gordon, after closing the retail store. He has since formed Pax Productions and booked big names like Judy Collins and Henry Rollins for venues in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. He’s also helped book concerts for the Central Avenue Grill.
Along with Central Avenue Grill owner Min Park and the concert sponsors, Gordon is working to make Los Alamos a nicer place to live by providing more entertainment and giving local businesses a boost.
“What I enjoy most is doing concerts in Los Alamos,” he says, explaining that the peaceful, small town atmosphere is what makes it possible to produce concerts in Los Alamos. “I hope to keep on doing this. Los Alamos deserves it.”