Published 6/17/11 in the Las Cruces Bulletin
The ‘Coyote’ continues to howl
By David Edwards
For the Las Cruces Bulletin
“We really are the grandfather of them all,” Bob Burns, founder of the Howling Coyote Coffeehouse and Open Mic, said. “We spawned the other open mics in town.”
Burns and his wife Melody started the Coyotein February 2005 and it really was an extension of something they did at home.
“When we were looking for a house to buy, one of the criteria was that it had to have a big enough living room so we could have music gatherings,” Burns said.
Burns had always thought that “Howling Coyote” would be a good name for a coffeehouse and it was always intended to be an open mic format.
At the time, the pastor at the Mastery of Life Center (now the Center for Spiritual Living) was very interested in having the church be a center for community activities. So the coffeehouse began presenting performance nights on the first and third Fridays of each month. Eventually, the Mesilla Valley Jazz and Blues Society also began meeting there. After four and a half years, the Coyote moved to a new space and is currently located at the First Christian Church on El Paseo Road.
Originally, the sign-up for performance started at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7 p.m., but the open mic became increasingly popular and the process switched to a lottery system with performers drawing numbers to determine theorder they appear on stage.
When all the performers are finished – the number is limited to 18, with each one allowed 10 minutes on stage – there is an open jam session which continues until everyone is ready to go home.
In addition to maintaining a positive, encouraging atmosphere – it is also family friendly with no alcohol or off-color material allowed – Burns is proud of the friendships and collaborations that have formed over the years.
“You hear someone play and they’re good so you ask them to play with you at a future gig,” he said. “There is a group called East Mesa that all met here and they are doing some really nice work together.”
Jack Rokowski is a fledging musician whose weapon of choice is the Hammond organ.
“If you are new in music, it is very productive to play in front of other people,” he said. “It’s really different than just playing at home. Howling Coyote offers that opportunity, plus you get to see what other people can do.”
“Our audiences are fun. They’re very encouraging,”Burns said. “They never make you feel bad– there’s no hook.”
If you are new in music, it is very productive to play in front of other people.
BOB BURNS, Howling Coyote founder