The sixth annual edition of El Paso's Neon Desert Music Festival went down over this past Memorial Day Weekend. With the continued promise to provide an energetic and eclectic mix of music, food and art, the festival showed major growth this year. Along with the three main stages and the silent disco, the event featured a new skate ramp as well as a wrestling ring for Lucha Libre matches.
What really opened up the festival was the completion of renovations to San Jacinto Plaza, which along with representing the physical center and heart of the city, also provided a Homegrown Live stage for local talent. Festival attendees also had the opportunity to lie in the grass or engage in a game of ping-pong or chess in the park, providing a sometimes much-needed rest during the hot days and nights.
After attending Neon Desert last year, I fell in love with the atmosphere, energy, and sound of the young event; I also met several outstanding El Pasoans who convinced me to return. What I really enjoy is the complete devotion to music shown by the local fans, who never failed to provide each performance with their utmost attention, devotion and energy, from the main headliners to the upstart acts. More than 30,000 music fans attended this year, and I'd venture to say that the majority were supremely pleased with the event. I certainly already look forward to next year, and proudly present my ten most memorable moments from this year's fest:
Peligrosa's King Louie is an El Paso native who ranks Neon Desert as one of his favorite events/gigs of the year. Along with serving as the official DJ of the artist/VIP area and after-party, he played a set on Day One in the Silent Disco. in his words: "One of the highlights of my week was going against Johnny Cage (an excellent OG El Paso DJ) at the silent disco and everyone cheering him for the first 5 minutes, and then 20 minutes into it, everyone was singing along to what I was playing. He was a good sport though , nice dude and nothing but respect for him."
Tyler, The Creator told the crowd that he had needed to poop, then he proceeded to jump all over the stage and remind everyone that he's still one of the greatest young performers in the music today.
The crowd during Future's set spanned about three whole city blocks, including these knuckleheads who climbed atop the stop lights for a better view. It was totally wild.
Rock band Deftones also attracted an immense crowd, young and not so young. Front man Chino Moreno is an amazing performer, jumping and howling and interacting with fans throughout the whole set. This young fan was overcome with joy to see her favorite artist put on such a great show.
For years now, Houston rapper Dice Soho has invited me to his shows and provided me his music for review. I was finally able to catch his show, and it was impressive. The added energy of Trill Sammy adds to an already high octane set of thumping rap beats and trap-house rhymes which are devoured by the young fan base. Add the crowdsurfing and willingness to get close (and even on top) of their audience, and this duo ranks as a heavy favorite of the festival.
When Natalia LaFourcade looked deep into my eyes and sang to me. Yes, that's exactly how I remember it.
When Tiësto played "Panda" by Desiigner. Yes, the song may suck, but damn does it ever get the crowd pumped!
Daddy Yankee playing all the hits we love and remember.
Ludacris made me relive my college years with a stroll through his extensive catalogue of No. 1 songs and guest spots.
Tory Lanez is one the most preeminent young performers in music today. Known for his acrobatic stage antics and love of interacting with his fans, Lanez delivered one of the craziest sets of the festival. He was joined by A$AP Ferg, who turns things up in his own right, but Tory was the true star of the night. My favorite part of the set is when he challenged the crowd to sing a few classics: "Poison" by Bel Biv DeVoe; "Pony" by Ginuwine; and his own track "Say It," which really made a special moment. He then proceeded to perform on top of a side stage that was graciously provided by Chase Bank. Insert "winking" emoji here.
Until next year, Neon Desert. You certainly know how to party!
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.