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By Brett Villa
Words by Timothy Schumann – Photos by Timothy Schumann
Every Memorial Day weekend for the past 9 years, The Neon Desert Music Festival hits downtown El Paso like a runaway train, needless to say, it is the event of the year here in West Texas.
This was the 3rd time in a row I had the pleasure of covering this epic event and this year surely didn’t fail to deliver. The only difference this year was they moved the entire festival to the east side of downtown, just about 6 blocks, it was always centered around San Jacinto Plaza and Cleveland Square, both small parks, but nice green grass to sit or lay on accompanied with shade trees, but reasons unknown to me, it moved this year and at first, I didn’t care for it, simply because they cut it down from 4 stages in previous years to 3 this year and had the 2 of them really spread apart from each other, so it was quite the endeavor to move from stage to stage moving thru a massive crowd, but in the Good News Department, they provide a Media/Photo Pit entrance to avoid that crowd once close to the stage, which really is a blessing.
NDMF is a mixture of Music, Culture and Art, the main categories of music is EDM, Hip Hop, Latin and peppered with a little Rock and Roll. The masses turn out for this, 45K in attendance this year, a 50% increase over last year, rest assured, those 10 square blocks of downtown are packed to the gills, it is quite the sight.
There are all types of vendors selling their wares from Merch, Food, Hand Drawn and Handcrafted Art, multiple full bars throughout the festival grounds, plus you could get a haircut and or a massage, not to mention Pro Wrestling and Skateboard ramps, it’s safe to say, there was something for everyone.
The powers to be made parking rather easy this year by having the newly installed Street Trolleys run for free dropping patrons off within easy walking distance from the main gate.
In the past years national acts such as Foster the People, Lil Wayne, Hardwell, J Balvin, Gucci Mane, At The Drive In, Kaskade and Third Eye Blind graced the stage with their presence and this year was no exception. Saturday was a stellar line up with acts such as Paul Wall,Tyga, Don Omar, Rezz, Steve Aoki and Dashboard Confessional, despite the blazing heat, the audience was as far as you could see.
Sunday, the weather changed, it is Springtime in West Texas and what that means is wind and blowing dust, we had gusts up to 50 MPH, stacks of speakers that hang on either side of the stage were lowered to sit on the stage to avoid swaying back and forth due to the wind.
Regardless to the weather conditions, the show proceeded as usual with nationals like LovelyTheBand, Gunna, Young Thug, Tchami, Chicano Batman and the crowd favorite Wiz Khalifa.
This event runs like a well oiled machine, everything is on a time schedule and nothing was late, the working media had their own lounge with WI FI, snacks and drinks, the perfect place to take a break from the maddening crowd. Speaking of the crowd, everyone that I could see were having the time of their lives, drinking, dancing was the order of the day, everyone got along and everyone surely got their monies worth of the price of the ticket, I mean , isn’t that the important issue of kindness, interaction which others and getting home safely, these components are what make this event successful, hence 9 years going strong.
Here in El Paso, there are other festivals throughout the year, but Neon Desert Music Festival is the premier music festival here in West Texas, people come from far and wide for this diamond of EMD and Hip Hop, El Paso eats this up with a big spoon as well as the thousands in attendance as stated, it is a sight to behold, it does warm my to see people having a great time as I did this past weekend, needless to say, this guy is already looking forward to it next year.
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