NIИ Tension in El Paso

When it was first announced in Febuary that Nine Inch Nails would be retuning to El Paso, I was stoked.  I hadn’t seen them since the Further Down the Spiral tour WAY BACK WHEN!!! in 94.  They were supported then by a fledgling Marilyn Manson and the crazy Jim Rose Circus at El Paso’s infamous Barn County Coliseum. Back then I was much more tolerable to crowds, idiots and general mayhem, now not so much.  Luckily, NIИ decided to upgrade their return to El Chuco with a night at the Don Haskins.  Assigned seats and crowd control doesn’t completely weed out the fools, but it should at least make it tolerable.

Fast forward several months and the event was upon us.  A weeknight concert is already a cluster and adding to the mix, Virg was bit under the weather.  What seemed like a cool idea in February was now a juggling act of getting dinner, home work and the nightly instructions for the boys to my Mom so she would hopefully have a chaos free night of watching them.  1994 John and Virg would be laughing hysterically at our 2013 versions.

With everything set, we headed down to UTEP.  Parking was quick and easy in the new garage off of Cincinnati Street and we picked up our tickets without issue.  Finding our friends and seats was equally uneventful and we settled in for the opening act, the unknown to us Explosions in the Sky.

😐 Hummm… cool music but something was missing.  Oh yeah, singing.  They apparently are an instrumental act.  There were hints of Trail of the Dead and Barroness and the songs would build up and break in large crashes of momentum and sound, though I felt kind of lost without the some sort of vocal leads.  I could listen to them as background task music or randomized amongst other similar bands but a full 45 minutes got a little repetitive.

After a quick break it was time for Reznor to take the stage.  NIИ historically has had a impressively technical show to match their “industrial” origins and this one was no different.

  The lighting was a dizzy array matching the high BPM tempo of the music.  Curtains of LEDS slipped up and down changing the atmospherics and at times added a weird multi-layer effect.  It had kind of a ethereal feel, allowing for some interesting visual effects.  There was no need for fire and pyrotechnics. This was mainlined technology, distilled for a generation that grew up with Atari and has expanded to include those that capture it with Apples.

The set list spanned his 20+ year catalog and it was cool to hear updated versions of classics like Head Like a Hole.  NIИ was lucky to have such a huge hit early in their career that managed to age well and still resonates with fans. Many in attendance tonight were not even born when it was originally released! I would have never guessed Rezor to become an elder statesman in rock:)

The pacing was good and with one encore it was time to hit the road.  Pro tip, don’t ever park in a parking garage for a concert if you are in a hurry.  I should have anticipated the jam that would ensue after the mass exodus of the exit.  Once they got traffic control going at the street level, we were out and home by 11:30. Not to bad.  My camera phone doesn’t do it justice but for what its worth here are a few pics and quick vids:

Nine Inch Nails on flickr

The Silos

After a few misses trying to get in, I made a couple of calls and figured out how to gain access to the large concrete silos on Ruhlen Court by the Rescue Mission of El Paso.

I had been given a tip to check out the site by Peter Thak.  For the last few years The Silos have been host to an underground graffiti art show put together by David “Grave” Herrera and others benefiting the Rescue Mission. His art and work in the local El Paso community is well known and he has even championed a public place where up and comers can legally spray and display their art.  I didn’t think that the artwork would still be around but the site is locked up which prevents it from getting tagged or vandalized.

Once you are in, its oddly disorienting. From the outside it appears to be a large rectangle but the building is actually made up of 21 tall concrete silos.  The roof has long been removed so there’s lots of available light during the day.  The downside to that is the exposure to the elements and the pigeons.

After getting used to the vertigo inducing walls, my friend Vince and I wandered around inside documenting the various works.  There was quite a spread in talent and design, no doubt due to the large collection of artists represented.

Historically, graffiti art has been a misunderstood form of artistic expression, in part by being lumped together with gang tagging and vandalism. But if there’s one thing all the excitement over Banksy’s recent New Your residency tells us, its that art is in the eye of the beholder.  Many street artists may have started out on the fringes in the murky world of “is it art or destruction of property” but context and prominence need to also be applied to truly understand the aerosol art form.

Our need to get out and breathe clean air brought our time in the tubes to and end. The temporary existence of the works makes the visit worth it though. Given the recycling nature of the space, hopefully future shows here will continue to exhibit the talent willing to lay down paint for the greater good.

The full set can be viewed here: The Silos on Flickr

On a mission…

I got a tip the other day for a site that I should check out.  I scouted out the location but couldn’t gain easy access.  I’ve put out some feelers to see if I can get in so we shall see.  I’m purposing leaving out the details right now to keep it a surprise but it’ll be worth it if I can get in.

City of El Paso Public Art

This year we’ve been lucky. There’ve been a host of new public art installations put up across the city.  If you’re not familiar with downtown El Paso’s layout, there is a set of railroad tracks that run underground parallel to the I-10 freeway.  Over several points there are bridges, that for the most part, you would forget about as you pass over.
In the City’s on going effort to revitalize downtown, they have replaced the chain-link with new public art works.  Once forgotten dead space is now not just functional fencing but engaging art. Along Campbell street is a cool 3D piece by Art Garcia:

Kansas has another installation that evokes the Franklin mountains by Tom Johnson, Tom Orr and Frances Bagley:

There are a couple more that l’ll try and get better shots of and post up in the future. More info about the ongoing improvements and activities can be found at the City of El Paso’s Public Art Facebook page or website.

Chalk the Block 2013

On Sunday I headed out to Chalk the Block 2013 to get the boys out of the house for a few hours.  Because of the construction in San Jacinto Plaza, the event was moved from the park to the area outside the Convention Center and down the way on Franklin street by the Museum of History.

There were also a bunch of pop-up galleries open for the event and from where we parked we were able to view a few along our walk.

Despite the disjointed nature, due to the construction, it was well attended and there was plenty of great works on display:

As we wound our way around, we were able to view some of the new artistic fencing that replaces the old chain link over the railroad bridges. The El Paso Public Art Program commissioned different artists to create replacement fencing, adding some much needed character to the bridges where the railroad snakes under downtown.

As in the past, the event is also host to lots of alternative art performances and kinetic sculptures by artists from around the USA.  You can really spend the whole day and night with musical performances and local food trucks keeping your body and mind fed.  After a couple of hours it was time for us to fly home:

Chalk the Block 2013 on Flickr

Behind the Muir Building

A while back it was decided to let the Muir building get razed since it was considered “non contributing” and deemed to expensive to restore by the owner.  The general gist was that the modifications by the various tenants over the years had removed much of what made it historic. In its last role as a Payless Shoe Store it did look that way.

You can debate that all day long but until you start taking down walls, you don’t really know.   There’s a good pic taken by Jim Tolbert at the elpasonaturally blog that shows how much was really left under the facade.  Now I’m no engineer, but it looks like there was quite a bit of the original building left that could have been worked with:

John Muir Building 15 July 2013Buildings come and buildings go.  It’s a tough decision and if the money isn’t there or if its not financially feasible to the owner what are you going to do?  You would hope the need to preserve the past would trump the pocketbook but its rare when that actually happens.

I drove by the spot were the Muir sat and if there’s a small silver lining to all of this, its what was hidden behind it:

Its a pretty nifty look at some old building signage that I would guess predates the Muir’s construction. I hope it doesn’t get immediately painted over in favor of white so that the future patrons of this, soon to be parking lot spot, will get to see some history.