A year shy of its 10th anniversary Neon Desert Music festival broke attendance records this past Memorial Day weekend with over 45,000 glitter-globbed bodies pounding pavement in the Government District of Downtown El Paso.
Having skipped the 2018 festival on the same terms as Cardi B’s 8th month of pregnancy, I returned with a new road dawg (or puppy) this year: my 10-month-old Ava Sunflower.
Neon Desert had seemed family-friendly enough in the past, so taking her to the daytime sets was a definite weekend plan. After a Tacos Don Cuco and 501 Bar & Bistro pre-game, we doused ourselves in sunscreen and celebrated her inaugural festival junkie initiation for the weekend. The kid loved it.
Already walking, this baby ran circles around the art work, pointed out the brightest and boldest outfits and danced her signature baby toprock any time she heard bass. Daytime baby-festing was a success, and we safely grooved to bits of local sets with favorites by Ribo Ruckus, Lavell Jones (with band comprised of Afro Pick members!) and the DJs at the Los Visionaries stage.
For families on the fence, daytime was a perfect dose of local culture and not-quite-overcrowded landscapes. The tiny Sunflower was also out cold within a couple of hours, even with the help of lemonade and ice cream sugar highs.
In 2020, she’ll be back with a dance party goal that lasts until sundown.
As the moon rose, that record-breaking attendance surge was obvious amidst the festival’s new footprint. By dusk, headliners and their openers stared out at a narrow sea of tens of thousands of screaming attendees, making any form of stage perspective a challenge for late spectators.
But what lacked in visual observance made up in good sound systems, great music and groovy energy; but it did bring up the question constantly: Has Neon Desert outgrown its downtown home?
Perhaps 2007-2017 Bianca would have dived in headfirst into the blocks-long crowds to catch bits and pieces of the festival wish list. This year, the treks felt daunting and the easier access head-bang and dance parties at the Paso del Norte, Homegrown and Visionaries stages were more worth the time and energy.
Silent Disco had technical problems the couple of times we attempted a groove sesh, but overall, NDMF pulled its weight in art and music selection on the local level and solidified the yearly (now family) tradition.
The once-chiseled bikini bod of the festival body undeniably gained some uncomfortable love handles after shifting from the Plaza location. One can only hope organizers adjust to its successful growth by moving up a few outfit sizes.
“Neon Desert Music Festival has always brought a wide range of musical talent to El Paso, and we are excited to partner with them to create new programming on the El Paso Streetcar,” said Tracey Jerome, Managing Director of the Museums and Cultural Affairs Department, Libraries and Tourism. “This is a fun way to introduce audiences to our talented local musicians as well as creating opportunities for a new performance venue.”
On Saturday a mariachi quartet will play from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Carla Riojas will play from 5 to 6 p.m.
The streetcar serenades will entertain festival goers as they ride from the Glory Road Transit Center to the festival located in Downtown El Paso.
“The Streetcar summer schedule caters to events along the downtown and uptown areas. This will help alleviate traffic jams during big events and encourage Park+Ride at Glory Road and Union Plaza Transit Centers,” said Jay Banasiak, Sun Metro Director.
Neon Desert will take place in Downtown El Paso on Saturday May 25 and Sunday May 26. Visitors attending Neon Desert are encouraged to park and ride the El Paso Streetcar to the event. Festival goers will be able to ride the Streetcar free with festival credentials.
The Streetcar will be in service from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. in order to accommodate festival hours.
On Friday, officials with Neon Desert announced their return to downtown El Paso for the ninth consecutive year and a special ticket promotion.
The two day music festival that has hosted hundreds of thousands of music fans from around the region and around the world, returns to Downtown El Paso May 25 and 26th. In 2018, over 30,000 fans attended the weekend festival.
To celebrate today’s announcement, the festival has released a limited number of discounted early-bird passes online at neondesert.com.
According to NDMF officials, the 2-Day GA passes start at just $99, with J&K VIP available for $250 and J&K Platinum VIP for $500.
The special ticket announcement comes just about one week ahead of Neon Desert announcing their much-anticipated musical line up. Officials say that announcement will be made on March 15th, at 10 a.m.
The reveal will include 2019 headliners and acts broken down by day. To view Herald Post’s previous coverage of NDMF, click here.
The 2018 Neon Desert Music Festival hosted rap artists such as Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Playboi Carti along with proven rock artists Third Eye Blind and local favorite, At The Drive In. Latin stars Cafe Tacvba, Farruko and Bomba Estereo also lit up the night.
The two-day festival took place this past Memorial Day weekend on May 26 and 27 covering over 15 city blocks in the heart of downtown El Paso and encompassing two city parks, Cleveland Square Park and San Jacinto Plaza.
Organizers say that this year’s festival played host to over 30,000 total attendees.
Video & Interviews by Daniel Ornelas, El Paso Herald-Post. Check out our full galleries from Day One and Day Two, thanks to El Paso Herald-Post Chief Photographer ‘Ace’ Acosta
The annual Neon Desert Music Festival returned to Downtown El Paso Saturday Evening, along with thousands of music fans from around the region. Our very own Daniel L. Ornelas, Steven Cottingham and Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta were in attendance as well, not to perform, but to bring your their views of the festival.
Check out our first piece of coverage, thanks to Chief Photographer Ace Acosta below, and stay tuned for more coverage Sunday.
Neon Desert Music Festival officials announced the daily music lineup for the eighth annual event, which is slated to return to El Paso, Texas, on May 26 & 27 of Memorial Day weekend.
Taking place over 15 city blocks in the heart of downtown El Paso and encompassing two city parks, Cleveland Square Park and San Jacinto Plaza, Neon Desert is one of the first major US music festivals to emphasize booking mainstream American acts alongside acclaimed international and Latin performers since year one.
This year, the festival will welcome headlining performances on Saturday, May 27, from Dutch EDM superstar Martin Garrix, who is currently ranked the No. 1 DJ in the world on DJ Mag‘s annual Top 100 DJs Poll; El Paso-born rock icons At the Drive-In, who continue to perform in support of the band’s reunion last year after a long-awaited return from their hiatus since 2001; and the Grammy Award-winning and oft-labeled “Best Rapper Alive” Lil Wayne.
The headlining performances on Saturday will be supported with sets from alt-rock darlings Third Eye Blind, who are set to perform a variety of their decade-spanning greatest hits; rapper Playboi Carti, who continues to ride high from the success of last year’s viral smash hit “Magnolia;” the mysterious masked DJ and producer Malaa, many fans of whom suspect is the collaborative secret project of Parisian producers DJ Snake, Tchami, and Mercer; and Latin Grammy-nominated Mexican singer/songwriter Caloncho; in addition to Cults, Little Jesus, Dreamville Records’ Earthgang, Boogie, and more.
Headlining performances on Sunday will include Atlanta trap-rapper and New York Times best-selling author Gucci Mane, who is prepping for the debut of Glacier Boyz, his rumored collaborative super-group project with Migos and Lil Yachty; American DJ/producer Dillon Francis, who is currently prepping for the release of his next album which is said to heavily feature Latin and Spanish-language music; and rock group Café Tacvba, who hail from nearby Mexico and continue to perform in support of their recent album, Jei Beibi, which was released last May.
Sunday’s schedule is also set to include performances from Puerto Rican-born reggaeton singer and songwriter Farruko; electronic dance music duo GTA; New York-based indie-pop band The Drums; and Bomba Estéreo, who are best known for their psychedelic-cumbia style of music and who just released their latest album, Ayo, last fall to praise from critics and fans alike, and many other acts, like LANY, Lecrae, Cuco, Nao, and Buddy, among others.
Single-day GA passes are on sale now for $79 at NeonDesert.com Additionally, weekend GA passes to the two-day event are still available for $119, along with J&K weekend VIP passes for $275 and J&K Platinum weekend VIP passes for $550.
J&K VIP ticket-holders will receive a variety of perks, a dedicated VIP-only entrance, complimentary drinks by Later Later, complimentary dinner each night, official Neon Desert merch, El Paso Electric charging stations, free barber, and more.
J&K Platinum VIP passes, which sold out in their debut last year, offer the most elevated experience available to ticket buyers. The Platinum VIP attendees will receive all of the regular VIP perks, in addition to exclusive access to a main stage viewing deck, a special Platinum VIP area featuring dedicated bars and food vendors, and more.
Interested patrons are encouraged to act fast as these VIP ticket packages are in very short supply.
The daily music performance lineup for Neon Desert 2018 can be found below:
SATURDAY, MAY 26
MARTIN GARRIX • AT THE DRIVE-IN • LIL WAYNE
THIRD EYE BLIND • PLAYBOI CARTI • MALAA • CALONCHO
CULTS • LITTLE JESUS • EARTHGANG • BOOGIE • THE SWELL KIDS
GREAT SHAPES • DULCE MAL • SICK.LIFE • PILOTS OF VENUS • GILA MONSTER • YOUNG DELUXE
DIVINE KEGEL • MOUNTAIN VIBES • THE FIFTH ESTATE • MIKEY CLOUD • STANGUS • THE SANDY OHMS
SUNDAY, MAY 27
GUCCI MANE • DILLON FRANCIS • CAFÉ TACVBA
FARRUKO • GTA • THE DRUMS • BOMBA ESTÉREO
LANY • LECRAE • CUCO • NAO • BUDDY • THE GARDEN
DIRTY RIVER BOYS • NICK HIRSCH • A. BILLI FREE • SPACE CAPTAINS COLLECTIVE • WILDSTERS
FAT CAMP • SLEEPSPENT • MEDVEDI • SOUL PARADE • CRY BABY • MATT U JOHNSON
In addition to the music performances throughout the weekend, fans at the 2018 festival will experience a unique urban festival environment that literally transforms historic downtown El Paso into a festival playscape for attendees of all ages.
Key features of the festival include a dedicated stage for local artists in the San Jacinto Square, as well as a skate ramp, pro wrestling, and more.
Neon Desert will also curate a full slate of local food vendors and live visual artists for the two-day event in a continued effort to provide ticket buyers with an authentic West Texas festival experience unlike any other. The festival is also proud to benefit 2018 partner El Paso Sun City Pride.
Now in its eighth year, Neon Desert has cumulatively hosted over 170,000 attendees, with over 40,000 music fans partaking in the 2017 two-day celebration (a 25% increase from the year prior).
Since its inception in 2011, the event has offered attendees an eclectic mix of mainstream American performers alongside acclaimed international acts, with past festival performers including 2017 acts like Hardwell, Foster the People, J Balvin, Alesso, Logic, Migos, as well as Tiësto, Future, J. Cole, Kaskade, Daddy Yankee, Passion Pit, Zoé, Ximena Sariñana, Mala Rodríquez, G-Eazy, Zedd, Wiz Khalifa, MGMT, and Moby, who have played in years prior.
For more information on the festival, visit the festival’s website. Follow Neon Desert Music Festival on facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter for updates and special promotions. The official hashtag of Neon Desert 2018 is #NDMF2018.
Neon Desert Music Festival is holding a special one-day-only discounted ticket sale for students beginning at 11am MT this Saturday, March 24 at 3 different Phit Phuel locations across El Paso.
Weekend GA passes for Neon Desert will be available during the sale for just $100, cash only. Interested ticket buyers must present a valid student ID in order to purchase tickets – limit is two GA weekend passes per person.
Quantity is limited, so early arrival is highly suggested.
For more information on the festival, visit the NDMF website. Follow Neon Desert Music Festival’s Facebook page, or via Instagram at @ndmf, on Twitter at @neondesert, and on Snapchat at @neondesert on for updates and special promotions.
Saturday, March 24 | 11:00am – 4:00pm MT (or until supplies last)
Phit Phuel (East)- 1757 George Dieter Drive, Suite #121 El Paso, TX
Phit Phuel (West) – 5411 N Mesa Street, El Paso, TX
Phil Phuel (Northeast) – 9840 Dyer St, El Paso, TX 79924
$100 for GA weekend passes
*A valid student ID must be presented to purchase tickets
*Limit is 2 GA weekend tickets per person
Staff Report May 31, 2017NewsComments Off on Neon Desert Music Fest Draws 40k Music, Art Lovers to Downtown
Neon Desert Music Festival celebrated its seventh year in 2017 with its most successful event to date, which sold out across two days and featured a variety of acclaimed international hip-hop, EDM, Latin, and indie acts. The two-day festival took place this past Memorial Day weekend, May 27 and 28, in El Paso, Texas, and played host to over 40,000 total attendees.
Covering over 15 city blocks in the heart of downtown El Paso and encompassing two city parks, Cleveland Square Park and San Jacinto Plaza, Neon Desert Music Festival proudly welcomed headlining performances from some of the most in-demand acts in the world, including EDM heavyweights Hardwell and Alesso.
Hardwell’s high-energy performance on Sunday kept the party going all night long, along with internationally renowned DJ and producer Alesso, whose stellar performance on Saturday proved that he has earned his title as the forerunner of the next generation of EDM and house music.
Additional 2017 headliners included Colombian R&B singer and international sensation J Balvin, as well as rapper/producer and self-described “Young Sinatra” Logic, who performed in support of his recently released album, Everybody, which just this month hit number one on the Billboard 200 charts. Migos, one of the biggest hip-hop groups in the country, was also onsite over Memorial Day weekend. Their sophomore album, Culture, topped the Billboard 200 for several weeks this spring and was boosted in large part by the smash hit “Bad and Boujee.”
Other music performers at Neon Desert this weekend included Texas-based electro-funk duo Ghostland Observatory; Grammy-winner and beloved St. Louis rapper Nelly; electronic producer and creator of the viral smash hit “Harlem Shake” Baauer; tropical-house DJ Thomas Jack; genre-bending DJ Mija; and more than 30 other talented acts, including a variety of local music performers like El Paso’s own R&B sensation Khalid, whose return to El Paso was a homecoming of sorts for the rising star.
Neon Desert once again proved that it is truly unique to the national festival landscape as it not only showcased national headlining hip-hop, EDM, and indie talent, but it also paid tribute to the Latin heritage of host town El Paso and its diverse residents. For the 2017 event, the festival welcomed a variety of Latin and Mexican music performers from across the globe, including Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte, who proved to be a crowd favorite at the weekend event; Venezuelan-based disco-funk band Los Amigos Invisibles; Mexican rockers DLD; five-piece indie pop band and recent nominee for Best New Artist at the Latin Grammys 2016 The Chamanas, and more.
In addition to the music performances throughout the weekend, fans at the 2017 festival experienced an expanded footprint in historic downtown El Paso, which included a new entrance near the Mills Plaza. Other key features at the festival included a dedicated stage for local artists in the San Jacinto Square, as well as a skate ramp, pro wrestling, numerous live art installations, and more. Neon Desert also welcomed a full slate of local merchants, food vendors, and live visual artists at this year’s two-day event.
Now in its seventh year, Neon Desert has cumulatively hosted over 170,000 attendees, as well as a variety of world-renowned talent, with the likes of Tiësto, Future, J. Cole, Kaskade, Daddy Yankee, Passion Pit, Zoé, Ximena Sariñana, Mala Rodríquez, G-Eazy, Zedd, Wiz Khalifa, MGMT, and Moby having previously played at the festival.
Neon Desert would like to thank their 2017 partners who helped make the event possible, including presenting sponsor Southwest University, as well as additional partners like Dos Equis, Whataburger, Malibu Rum, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Red Bull, Tidal, J&K, Electric Sky Wine, Hunt Companies, and El Paso’s Museum and Cultural Affairs Division (MCAD).
To view Herald-Post’s coverage of the event, click Day One or Day Two, to check out the art of Los Visionaries, click HERE; and to read our feature story about Hardwell, click here.
Our triumvirate of Herald-Post staffers, Bianca Delilah Cervantes, Daniel L. Ornelas, Ace Acosta, were all in Downtown El Paso covering the annual Neon Desert Music Festival.
While Daniel and Bianca craft their columns about their NDMF experiences, people and music, Chief Photographer ‘Ace’ Acosta will share his view of the festival right here, right now. To view day one’s action, click HERE.
Neon Desert Music Festival is excited to announce the set times and full performance schedule for the seventh annual event, which will return to downtown El Paso this Memorial Day weekend, May 27 and 28.
Both single-day and two-day passes are available for purchase online, as well as in store at several local businesses, including Happy House, Headstand, and both the east and west locations of Phit Phuel..
The 2017 full performance schedule is listed below by day and stage. Festival gates open at 3:00 p.m. (MT) daily with all sets subject to change.
To view the complete schedule, including this year’s Silent Disco stage, please click HERE. To view galleries from last year’s event click Day One or Day Two
SATURDAY, MAY 27
FRANKLIN MOUNTAINS STAGE
11:15pm – 12:30am Logic
9:00pm – 10:00pm Nelly
7:00pm – 8:00pm Lil Uzi Vert
5:00pm – 6:00pm Tennyson
3:30pm – 4:15pm Michael Christmas
RIO BRAVO STAGE – PRESENTED BY DOS EQUIS
12:30am – Close Alesso
10:00pm – 11:00pm J Balvin
8:00pm – 9:00pm Thomas Jack
6:00pm – 7:00pm Mija
4:15pm – 5:00pm Trae Tha Truth
PASO DEL NORTE STAGE – PRESENTED BY TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA
10:30pm – 11:30pm Los Amigos Invisibles
8:30pm – 9:30pm Marc E. Bassy
6:30pm – 7:30pm DLD
4:45pm – 5:30pm Bogan Via
3:15pm – 4:00pm Sorrytown
HOMEGROWN LIVE STAGE
8:15pm – 8:40pm Nico & The Silent Films
7:40pm – 8:05pm Ribo Flavin
7:05pm – 7:30pm The Other Half
6:30pm – 6:55pm Frythm
5:55pm – 6:20pm Yung Jung
5:20pm – 5:45pm Eddy Boy
4:45pm – 5:10pm Migas
4:10pm – 4:35pm If We Were Turtles
3:35pm – 4:00pm Our Friend The Mountain
3:00pm – 3:25pm Volta
SUNDAY, MAY 28
FRANKLIN MOUNTAINS STAGE
11:15pm – 12:30am Foster The People
9:00pm – 10:00pm Ghostland Observatory
7:00pm – 8:00pm Khalid
5:00pm – 6:00pm Medasin
3:30pm – 4:15pm Frontera Bugalu
RIO BRAVO STAGE – PRESENTED BY DOS EQUIS
12:30am – Close Hardwell
10:00pm – 11:00pm Migos
8:00pm – 9:00pm Baauer
6:00pm – 7:00pm Snow Tha Product
4:15pm – 5:00pm J^Hir
PASO DEL NORTE STAGE – PRESENTED BY TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA
10:30pm – 11:30pm Mon Laferte
8:30pm – 9:30pm Porter
6:30pm – 7:30pm Ty Segall
4:45pm – 5:30pm The Chamanas
3:15pm – 4:00pm Stan Z
HOMEGROWN LIVE STAGE
8:15pm – 8:40pm Rare Individuals
7:40pm – 8:05pm Dayluta Means Kindness
7:05pm – 7:30pm Trost House
6:30pm – 6:55pm Kilo and the Dew
5:55pm – 6:20pm Rose.Golden
5:20pm – 5:45pm Polaroids
4:45pm – 5:10pm Mikey Cloud
4:10pm – 4:35pm Flamel
3:35pm – 4:00pm Acid Pie
3:00pm – 3:25pm Brandon Bailey Johnson
Additionally, Neon Desert is excited to announce a full slate of local merchants, food vendors, and live visual artists set to participate at this year’s two-day event. Local merchants and shops at the fest will include V&X Boutique, Stela Rose Boutique, Le Trendy, Desert People Co., Zia Imports, Henna by Lue and Fresh Vitola.
Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of delicious bites from across the city. The 2017 participating food vendors include Drunchy’s, Eves Sinfully Good Sandwiches, 915 Corn Stars, Wonderscoops, Nona’s, Desert Smoke, Tacos Chinampa, Clasico, Crave, Crave Tacos, J&K, Mac’s Place, Nosh, The Tap on Wheels and Delicious.
Neon Desert will also welcome an eclectic group of acclaimed live visual artists to participate in this year’s event including artists such as Celeste Byers (@celestialterrestrial), EXIST1981 (@exist1981), Federico Archuleta (@el_federico), MrDvice (@mrdvice) and many more.
Single-day GA passes are still available for $79 at www.neondesertmusicfestival.com. Additionally, GA weekend passes are still available for $119, as well as J&K VIP weekend passes and J&K Platinum weekend VIP Passes, which are on sale now for $250 and $550, respectively.
J&K VIP ticket holders will receive a variety of perks including re-entry to the festival, complimentary drinks, as well as complimentary dinner daily at 6:00 p.m.; while J&K Platinum VIP ticket holders will be offered all of the regular VIP perks, in addition to exclusive access to a main stage viewing deck, complimentary drinks and meals throughout each day of the festival, and more.
Festival attendees are encouraged to avoid the lines by exchanging their GA ticket for a wristband early by visiting the below locations this Wednesday to Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
*Lowbrow Palace — 111 E. Robinson, Ave. El Paso, TX 79902
*The Fountains at Farah — Fountains Pavilion — 8889 Gateway Blvd W. El Paso, TX 79925
Over the past six years, Neon Desert has hosted over 130,000 attendees, as well as a variety of internationally renowned talent, with the likes of Tiësto, Future, J. Cole, Daddy Yankee, Kaskade, Passion Pit, Zoé, Ximena Sariñana, Mala Rodríquez, G-Eazy, Zedd, Wiz Khalifa, MGMT, and Moby having previously played at the festival.
Neon Desert looks to take this year’s event to new heights with a wide variety of stellar music acts set to perform over three stages, along with a silent disco stage, multiple live art installations, and a highly-curated mix of local food vendors and merchants.
Staff Report April 27, 2017NewsComments Off on Texas Trost Society Searching for Artists for Special Neon Desert Art Project
The Texas Trost Society has worked for the past four years to educate our community about the historic, cultural, and economic value of the many buildings designed by the Trost & Trost architectural firm in the early part of the 20th century.
As part of this year’s May Preservation Month, the Trost Society has created an interactive, artistic installation that will take place during Neon Desert Music Festival, a weekend that will reach over 40,000 El Pasoans.
Officials with the project say the installation has two purposes, “to engage as many people of all ages to interact with the physical characteristics of our built environment, and to promote the Texas Trost Society and our sponsors to a young audience demographic.”
While many sponsors participate in Neon Desert Music Festival each year, the Texas Trost Society envisions a unique sponsor experience that harmonizes with the musical and artistic nature of the festival, and one that capitalizes on the festival’s location in the heart of downtown.
The Texas Trost Society will light up the Martin Building with images of iconic downtown buildings – including images of the Blue Flame Building – illustrated and colorized by local artists, as well as display different artistic renderings of our local history and historic architecture.
Come nightfall, concert-goers will have the opportunity to see the images projected 100 feet high, as well as watch live feeds of people participating in activities at our booth.
The Trost Society’s pop-up installation will include a space for participants to color images of the coloring book and see their images on the projection, and we will have the opportunity to give your employees a special tour of the installation and festival should they choose to join us. We believe the engagement experience for this particular installation will have lasting impact on participants, as they will have many points of impact throughout the duration of the festival.
Social media impressions and additional press coverage during the festival will increase the number of views of the installation and our sponsors beyond those present during Neon Desert.
For artists who have artwork featuring Trost & Trost Buildings and would like to be featured, please send an email to email@example.com with a high-res image of your work, your name, the title of the piece, and your preferred social media handle.
For those with no Trost artwork, officials are also asking artists to color pages of our Trost in the Borderlands coloring book. Click the following link (YouTubeWatch) to watch the example and email organizers at the address above to participate.
“I’m never coming back to El Paso.” ~Naive Bianca, Austin-bound, 2004.
“El Paso could be the next Austin.” ~Recession Bianca, college grad living with parents, 2008.
“I #$%! love El Paso.” ~Somewhat Grownup Bianca, hometown ambassador, present day.
El Paso was the invisible high school chick; forever unnoticed until suddenly she’s the bodacious lead singer of an up-and-coming indie rock band scoring the not-so-primetime but close enough 3pm stage slot at festivals like Coachella, ACL and Bonaroo.
You know she’s on the cool-but-not-yet-trendy level, and you better stand at the front of the stage while you still have the chance because when she headlines in two or three years you’ll need binoculars to see her up close.
The Sun City really is a rising rock star in the music festival scene actually, offering a medley of options from EDM at Sun City Music Fest held at Ascarate Park, and the Hip Hop/Rock & Roll hybrid of the Texas Tattoo Showdown at the Coliseum the past few years.
Much of that shine however, also beams through the heart of the city, where tens of thousands of pounding feet rage and dance on the streets of Downtown each year. There’s a very special business breed of local lovers cultivating, supporting, investing and pumping promotional blood through the veins of Downtown’s cultural and communal body that’s catalyzing the growth we see today.
It was 15 years ago when Brad Dubow, General Manager of TownSquare Media (back then it was Regent Broadcasting) brought on the bright-eyed and energetic Gina Roe-Davis to rekindle the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fest that entertained Downtown El Paso through the 1980s until it fell on hard times.
In 2002, Roe-Davis led the direction of the first official Downtown Street Festival that immediately became one of the first cultural staples of El Paso. Downtown was in a ghostly drought, and the Street Fest stormed in with relief by way of music, food and good ol’ El Paso culture.
“People were waiting for that to happen, it was insane” Roe-Davis said. “They came out in droves, they embraced it.” The one day event sandwiched between Main and El Paso Streets evolved into a two-day fest due to its high demand and popularity, featuring classic and contemporary rock on multiple stages.
Headliners have ranged from Styx, Bush, Weezer and countless others. This year, the June festival will bring Goo Goo Dolls and Seether, along with a lengthy lineup of El Paso’s rising local talent. The event also hosts the largest car show in the city, a craft beer party area and an art competition.
“At TownSquare, throwing the party is about the audience, the music, our sponsors, partners and the people putting it all together,” Dubow said. “The great teams of KLAQ, KISSFM, 600ESPN and the people at El Paso Live and Destination El Paso.”
Showing your gratitude for the countless hours of blood, sweat and tears in planning this event can be done by simply attending. And screaming lyrics at the top of your lungs. And drinking beer.
Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend 2011 and a different corner of Downtown El Paso is glowing and swarming with thousands of festival goers.
The entrepreneurial lineage of those ever-evolving local lovers brings a new magic to the Downtown potential with the Neon Desert Music Festival that was conceived from a simple but penetrating question amongst four El Paso natives living in Austin: “Why couldn’t El Paso have this type of scene?”
Zach Paul, one of the founders of the Neon Desert Music Festival and 5th generation El Pasoan, wanted to bring the experiences he was getting outside of the city, back to his hometown.
His friends and festival cofounders shared that sentiment. “Its funny, the whole conversation started one night over beers after an AC/DC concert in Austin,” Paul said. “And it just slowly took off, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We had to earn it, we had to prove it, and we did. I’m so proud of what we’ve done.”
Neon Desert embarks on its 6th Memorial Day weekend with headliners like Ludacris, The Deftones, and Tiesto with no signs of slowing down. As Downtown evolves in infrastructure and business, the festival also continues to grow in attracting bigger name artists, tourism and most importantly, a sense of pride and inspiration amongst El Pasoans.
“I feel like the border has a tremendous amount of smart, creative, progressive people, and I feel like that is starting to shine through more and more each year,” Paul said. “To think where Downtown El Paso is going to be over the next 5 years, over the next 10 years. It’s just really cool to know that everyone is sharing the vision, it’s all about the future, it’s all about the big picture.”
Though they are two entirely different festivals, Neon Desert and Downtown Street Fest share much more than just a location. At the core, both celebrate El Paso history in showcasing beautiful architecture in their staging, they honor creativity in nurturing the local music scene, and they commit to their belief that El Paso is in the words of Gina RoeDavis “pretty BAD ASS.”
Aside from increasingly impressive musical acts, these festivals bring in the badassiest (did I just make that up?) of craft vendors, live painters and the evergrowing food truck community.
“Finally, there are different generations saying ‘we are damn good at what we do and we have something that is so unique that other towns don’t have,” she said. “Neon Desert, Downtown Street Festival, those are the horns that say, look at us, look at what’s going on in El Paso.”
The music festival circuit in Downtown El Paso will only continue its momentum. Most recently, the Mother of Pearl Block Party made its 2015 Fall debut at Union Plaza, giving El Pasoans the opportunity to rock out to artists Mike Jones, Neon Indian and Peanut Butter Wolf for free. The outdoor event proved successful in attendance and atmosphere.
The pet-friendly Sunset Heights Block Party, happening on the outskirting Prospect Street on the border of downtown continues a nineyear Summer/Fall tradition showcasing local musicians, artists and vendors.
In the Government District of Downtown, La Parada, happening every first Friday of the month takes on its sixth season since its kickoff in 2010. The event showcases diverse genres of local and national musicians, live painting and craft vendors.
Join me in #$%!ing loving El Paso and its entrepreneurial promotional lovers that ensure the continuance of its rockin’ growth. Festival junkies unite!