An homage to NDMF 2017

The+first+day+of+the+seventh+annual+Neon+Desert+Music+Festival+on+Sat.+May%2C+27.+

Michaela Román

The first day of the seventh annual Neon Desert Music Festival on Sat. May, 27.

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

Immediately after walking through the gates of Neon Desert, one probably saw hundreds of others filled the streets anxiously walking about, meeting up with friends or stopping to take photos.

To the left of the entrance is the beer garden where herds of drunken fans pay astronomical prices for a beer they will sit on throughout the entire day. To the right is the Rio Bravo stage where most of the big headliners had their shows throughout the two days. Straight in the middle is San Jacinto Plaza where most would frantically waltz through to either take a break from the concert action and lay on the grass, or use as a crossing ground to their next stage destination.

No, this isn’t Austin City Limits where there is a wide space of room and stages are spread out throughout a large field of grass. Instead, five stages are set throughout the downtown area for Neon Desert.

This isn’t EDC where people come from just about everywhere to see the hottest DJ’s perform at the grandest stage. At Neon, the music festival caters to those in the region and more importantly the local El Pasoans who guarantee they will not miss the festival.

This isn’t Coachella where the top artists from every genre perform at the festival. Neon Desert, tries to bring popular artists from each type of music and showcase them on a large scale in order to cater to everyone.

The beautiful thing about Neon Desert is that no one cares that it’s not set out to be a grandiose event. On paper, the lineups are always sub-par when compare them to lineups like Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball or Coachella’s. But somehow Neon Desert never fails to bring in an immense crowd of people.

For El Pasoans from this generation, Neon Desert Music Festival might be the greatest cultural and social stimulating event that the city has to look forward to.

This year I decided to go to the festival by myself to take a step back and observe the culture of the music festival and my eyes were open to so much that goes unnoticed. Some of the habitual antics of the festival goers were comical, while others were almost troubling.

One of the things that I realized is the lack of importance that music has at the actual festival.
Some people at NDMF (and most definitely other music festivals across the globe) will get so belligerent drunk or high off drugs that they cannot experience any part of the festival because they’re either passed out in one of the porta-potty’s or they couldn’t even make it to the show in the first place.

Now, this trickles down to the group of friends they are with. Whoever is with the person that is too drunk or too high to cope has to end up babysitting them for the whole night, which ruins their experience.

I can’t tell you how many groups of friends I ran into who said, “please help me find my friend!” It felt like groups of people felt the need to be attached to one another throughout the entire festival or else they would implode.

I promise I’m not some sort of 50-year-old whiney man when I say this, but also a troubling concert examination is how much people spend on their phones throughout the set instead of actually watching the show. I posted only one Snapchat story of a live show, but people are notorious for recording the entire thing instead of actually taking in what the artist intended for the show. I would rather cherish the memory than constantly have to refer to my phone and brag how close I was or how I saw this one artist.

Another disheartening observation I made was how gruesome some of the crowds got. On one end, you would have girls swerving their way through crowds to try and get to the front of an already packed show when the performers were less than 10 minutes away from performing. Then you would have the drunk assholes who would chuck their tallboy 30 feet into the crowd, which would end up probably hitting someone in the head. Altercations, pushing and fights would spring out of nowhere in the crowd over stupid things, such as brushing shoulders or accidentally hitting one another.

Note to self: next year, spend $150 more for V.I.P tickets. The close rail standing room, the complimentary food and drinks and the easy access to restrooms is completely worth being away from all the madness in the crowd.

While all this drama was transpiring before my eyes, not once did I let it affect my experience. Music festivals are intended for enjoyment and entertainment purposes, so why stress over something that would make you think it was a horrible weekend?

Day one of the festival was a let-down to most because of the cancellation of Lil Uzi Vert and Nelly’s disappointing performance. However, it was impressive to see how many local food vendors, clothing lines, artists, skateboarders and even wrestlers came out to support NDMF. It was also remarkable to see how large the music festival has grown. By nine o’clock, crowds were massive for each performer and it was nearly impossible to even get in the middle of the crowds for artists like Nelly, J Balvin and Alesso.

So while most found day one to be a downer, there were some positive takeaways.

Day two of NDMF was when the festival was able to show its true colors. There was some quality talent that went unnoticed during their performance, such as Snow Tha Product, Ty Segall and Baauer.

Even though I don’t particularly care for his music, Khalid did a tremendous job of not only packing the largest crowd for a show before 8 but also capturing the entire crowd with his music. The entire Mills Street was filled with just about everyone at the festival to see the El Paso sensation; I had not seen anything like that from a show at such an early slate.

Then came Migos, who performed one of the most culturally riveting shows I’ve ever seen. They had the entire crowd bouncing throughout the whole set and never lost interest from the crowd. It was truly a treat to see one of the biggest hip-hop groups in the nation perform at such a high caliber.

Foster the People and Hardwell capped off the night in a great fashion. Foster the People had such an electrifying performance, almost as good as Passion Pit’s set in 2015. Hardwell played every house classic and mixed some bangers to end the night.

Sure, this year might not have been as good as last year’s Neon experience due to the poor first day, and definitely did not live up to that of the amazing 2015 year.

However, Neon Desert has laid its foundations deep into the El Paso culture. They have established such an astonishing culture around it that they could literally bring whoever they please and people will still come because when the lights turned off at the end of the festival and the people trickled into the street back to their homes, most already started anxiously awaited NDMF 2018.