Music history explodes with great little scenes that started out as an assemblage of musicians, artists and friends who took over some unlikely space, made it their own, and everybody else’s. From the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the explosion of grunge in Seattle, no one started out playing with the intention of getting rich or making record deals, but the simple vitality of the music shone through and spread far beyond its origins.

Santa Fe, known more for high-priced art and rich tourists, never really had a music scene of its own, until an unlikely venue emerged at the Santa Fe Veterans of Foreign Wars Club-Post 2951. Jonanna Widner, the music critic at the Santa Fe Reporter, took notice in an October 2002 column:

“There’s quite a little scene burgeoning down at the VFW Hall, of all places. This little hole in the wall feels like the architectural manifestation of Exile on Main Street–it oozes blues, beer and weird dark coolness. The candle-lit tables, slightly murky atmosphere and huge crazy mural of servicemen all blend together to make it feel like Neil Young’s dead and his ghost is drinking whiskey in the corner. It’s one of the last unspoiled venues, genuine and neighborhood-y, but the best part is the music.”

Documentary filmmaker Lexie Shabel (House of Rock) documented this happening in VFWbya, a gritty film showcasing the musicians, veterans and music-loving audience who incorporated the VFW into their weekly social calendars and brought together a swirling mix of humanity that grooved, albeit briefly, to a new music scene in Santa Fe. Shabel also shows why Santa Fe’s scene, unlike that of Seattle, died almost before it had begun.