For the second consecutive year Neon Desert Music Festival will turn Downtown, El Paso into a giant jukebox with an eclectic mix of live musical acts performing on multiple stages. This time the festival has added a day, making it a two-day event. Saturday, May 24th and Sunday May 25th will see acts like Bulllet Proof Tiger and the French Horn Rebellion hypnotize scores of music fans on the streets of Downtown.
The INSIDER had a moment to speak with Gina Martinez, Executive Producer in charge of venue operations and staffing for the festival. More notably, Gina is a co-founder of the festival. One of four co-founders as a matter of fact. The general public is more than aware of the line-up and sponsorship for the festival, what they may not be aware of is the evolution of the festival and its roots.
As we wound our way through the historic halls and stairway of the historic Martin building downtown that houses the Neon Desert offices, a subtle set of well-spaced sticky notes with arrows came into view. The arrows pointed quite efficiently in the direction of the offices, which took us up a flight of stairs, through a set of doors and to the left where we found the Neon Desert headquarters. Lane Gaddy, businessman and supporter of the festival helped with accessibility of the space located in the downtown business district.
There we found Gina, always dressed for comfort but never losing her sense of style. Barely able to pull away from the onslaught of last minute e-mails that being only a few days away from any large event would create. She politely pulled two chairs together to give us her undivided attention. She then gave us the inside track on the inception of the festival, “We started this from the bottom up, and people think we’re this large established company but this is just homegrown and created by four friends from El Paso.” She adds, “The four of us have known each other since middle school and we all went to Coronado high school together.”
Gina, was attending college near Austin, Texas when things just coalesced in a way that leads you to believe it was meant to be. “Even though we’re all from El Paso, we all found each other in Austin,” she said.
The other three founders include, Zachary Paul who handles marketing and media relations. Brian Chavez manages artist relations, booking and production, while Patrick McNeil handles day to day venue operations. The responsibilities are added to day jobs each founder responsibly juggles with the passion of the festivals demands.
“My husband wonders why I was on the phone for five hours and I explain that’s how long it took to figure out a detail as small as the bar menu,” said Gina.
“We started this process in April of two-thousand and eleven, so it took a while to do it the right way. Seeing what the music scene was around Austin, we thought to ourselves, why doesn’t El Paso have that?” she said.
When seeking a location for the festival the founders scouted the entirety of El Paso but did not find the right spot. “We saw San Diego Street Fest and wanted something similar but noticed that El Paso is a very location centered community. If an event is on the West side or East side, most of that community will go but we wanted a location that wasn’t a specific part of their town-we wanted the pulse. The center,” she explained.
“Downtown is unique and we use it as a backdrop, we think it shows the potential of downtown and El Paso itself,” she said.
Neon Desert Music Festival was the original recipient of Kickstart Downtown, a program initiated by the Museum and Cultural Affairs Department created to help fund special events to act as a catalyst for downtown activity.
When inspecting the festival for the first time, if you did not attend last year’s event, it is clear that the vision and synergy translates to everything from the selection of the artists to the consistent branding. “In selecting the musical acts, we start with a wish list, while talking to insiders in the music industry and fans, including staff to narrow down the list slowly but surely,” she explained.
“The whole process that takes roughly a year to organize from beginning to end has its real unsung heroes-the team members we have that coordinate the details,” Gina expresses, adding, “We have this huge family of about thirty people we have come to know over four years that deserve acknowledgment.”
With over twenty live performances and a dozen DJ’s, the festival will definitely give the heart of El Paso a steady beat, at least for a weekend. Visit the official website to sample the music and review the schedule of events!