Cool Canyon Nights has potential, but lacks substance

Eric Vasquez, Staff Reporter

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Visitors to McKelligon Canyon on Thursday night were met with all things 80’s: a chance to karaoke, high 80-degree weather, and music from the El Paso based 80’s cover band 80’z Xperience. The band headlined for El Paso Live’s Cool Canyon Nights, an annual summer event that brings both food and live music to the Franklin Mountain’s scenic concert venue.

While an 80’s cover band may only seem like a good idea for your uncle’s third wedding or an overdue high school reunion, 80’z Xperience raked in a packed house ready to hear the classics such as The Cure and Naked Eyes, even dipping into the seventies with KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Booty”. The night’s turnout didn’t surprise Lauren Falco, Marketing Director for El Paso Live, however.

“You’d be surprised how well these cover bands do in El Paso,” Falco said. “Fungi Mungle, this more 70’s cover band, and 80’z Xperience clean house when they play. We have to turn people away at the door. It gets wild.”

It is a sight to see.

By the time I was walking into the canyon, the band had already launched into their set list with Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”. The three band members were grooving on the stage dressed as if they ransacked the 80’s section of a Halloween store: the bass player wrapped his wig of spastic black hair in a red bandana, wiping the sweat from his face on his pull-on tattoo sleeves while the guitar player across the stage kicked around in black skinny jeans, the tendons in his ropy arms visible in his cutoff T-shirt.

As strange as it was to see a Mexican wearing a Union Jack cutoff, the feeling washed away once Lars Blaze – the guitar player – jumped off stage and wailed on a guitar solo for well over four minutes as he walked through the crowd. After seeing Blaze take a swig of beer from an audience member’s can and press it to his guitar to distort the sound, I forgot that the tattoos, the hair and even the music wasn’t their own.

I was just impressed. If the rest of the crowd was, however, I couldn’t tell.

Despite the good music booming through the canyon, most of the crowd stayed in their seats and collected calories from plates of nachos, cotton candy, and cups of beer.

Only a few choice women scattered throughout the crowd were up and dancing to the music they came to hear. Deborah Villarreal was one of those women.

“It’s boring just to sit there and stare at them,” Villarreal said. “I came to listen to the music I grew up with. You sit and eat when you watch movies, not at concerts.”

It may have been the average age in the audience – well over 30 – but that didn’t stop these young-at-hearts to move like they did back when it was 1989 (not even sorry for that reference).

Cool Canyon Nights picked up again last night with music from Joe Barron and continues next week with Our Friend the Mountain.

For more information on events like Cool Canyon Nights or even the rest of Cool Canyon Nights’ playlist, visit Admission to this event, as well as most of the other El Paso Live events, is free of charge.

Eric Vasquez may be reached at [email protected].