Kicking off the two-day annual festival, the 2016 El Paso Downtown Street Festival delivered both highs and lows to the center of the city for its first day of showing on Friday, June 17. Although the uniqueness of the concert attracted those of all ages, this year, the first day of the festival lacked depth musically. Headlining the show were indie rock band Neon Trees followed by the hard rock talents of Seether.
The festival was held outside the Abraham Chavez Theatre, stretching out to the block of Santa Fe and San Antonio, and eastward to El Paso St. While this lineup might have been under the radar, there were plenty of other events, booths and shows to go to for the Downtown Street Fest experience. However, a near forty-five dollar ticket for a single day seemed extraneous for the event.
Other than the main acts, the festival had five stages, which all showcased local talents ranging from different genres of music—country/alternative, decades, Latin, indie rock and even hip-hop. These shows were performed before the main acts hit the stage and offered the concert-goer an experience before the main show.
Also, inside the Convention Center, the annual car show was held. This provided a totally unique experience for anyone attending the festival because ticket holders were allowed to browse the different model cars at no extra charge. In addition to the cars, there were a plethora of vendor booths that sold various toys, clothing and collectible items. Food trucks from all around joined in at the festival, and even restaurants, such as Nona’s Pizza and Cattleman’s Steakhouse opened up tents.
The artistic aspect was highly incorporated throughout the day. Artists set up around stages and booths, and created art on the spot in various fashions. There were chalk artists, painters and even graffiti street artists who came to the show. This truly added a nice aesthetic to the day due to all the noteworthy work by the local artists.
Neon Trees opened up the headlining acts on the Budweiser stage in a thrilling fashion; however, their lack of quality music did not allow the majority of the crowd to truly divulge into their set. They opened up with high energy by playing loudly and attracting a notable crowd that stretched beyond a block as their set went on. They dove into their discography by playing songs off their past three albums, “Pop Psychology,” “Picture Show” and “Habits.” Midway into their indie-pop set, they played a crowd favorite, “Animal,” which hyped the crowd significantly. Their singer, Tyler Glenn, was absolutely loving the crowd of El Paso and demonstrated a substantial amount of energy throughout the show. Glenn, who is gay, spoke out against the shooting in Orlando in transition to a song by saying, “Someone doesn’t need to die because they’re oppressed. Love is all you need.” He danced about the stage to tracks like “Sleeping With a Friend” and “Everybody Talks,” and surprised the crowd with a “Don’t You Want Me” cover.
Overall, Neon Trees was an above average performance. With a little more substantial music, the band could have gained more attention at the show. After they performed, fireworks beamed through the sky, as per tradition to the past Street Fest shows.
Seether, the hard-rock band slated at the end, delivered a show that attracted the true rock aficionado. By the time the band came out, the street was filled with a sea of fans to watch the final performance of the day. Fronted by guitarist and lead vocals Shaun Morgan, the band ventured through thrashing guitars and heavy drums to make for a head-banger set. The band performed crowd-pleasers from nearly a decade ago, like “Rise Above This,” “Remedy” and “Fake It.” Morgan was impressive in his technique of transitioning from soft vocals to hard-rock hooks.
A big takeaway from the show was the wide range of age the festival appeals to. Adults, teenagers and even children can attend the show with a wide variety of things to do. However, this appeared to be one of the smaller turnouts for the Downtown Street Fest in a long time. The fact of the matter is people do not want to spend over thirty dollars on a sub-par lineup. Although they did focus their attention in other areas, the festival should have advertised to those who do not go simply for the music.
Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]