Relevance leads to an internship epiphany in the neon desert


EL PASO — The music festival was a living, breathing organism of 11,000 blurry faces, bright lights and loud sounds. Walking through the darkness and seeing the excitement of people dancing frantically to their favorite artists made me understand that we all shared the same mutual amazement for the present.

And I had helped to make it happen.

Two months earlier, I had received one of these so called “suggested student opportunities” messages via email. I needed an internship I could care about and Splendid Sun Productions wanted interns to help put on a music and arts festival entitled Neon Desert Music Festival on April 30th, 2011. The event aimed to feature international indie and electronic groups and provide a stage for rising local talent.

For once I thought, here is something relevant to my life, to my passions and to my overall ambitions in life as a music junkie.

CSS playing at Neon Desert Music Festival. (Courtesy of Jessica Joy)

CSS playing at Neon Desert Music Festival. (Courtesy of Jessica Joy)

Having attended a multitude of festivals around the nation, such as Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, CA and SXSW music summit in Austin, TX the prospect of having a potentially immense, music driven gathering in my own city filled my soul with a unique kind of hope. Needless to say I applied as quick as a mouse could click.

A confident interview and phone call later I was welcomed on to the team of around 15 individuals who whole heartedly believed in the ability for this festival to change the infrastructure of El Paso and the way it looks at artists and musicians. For once I was surrounded by co-workers who prioritized their lives with music.

The internship lasted all through the month of April leading to the actual festival date. Our duties where to build upon the main producers’ work, to ultimately help finalize every small detail in the colossal endeavor which is organizing a music festival.

For me the tasks consisted everything from: constructing media documents, participating in focus groups, miscellaneous problem solving, harnessing the power of social networking promotion to mastering grassroots promotional techniques on the streets of El Paso. During this time I was able to immerse myself into the inner machinations of festival production. I was able to understand, at least at a superficial level, the tremendous amount of planning, research and devotion it takes to take on a project such as this.

As the festival date drew closer, the stress grew thick and deep.

The limitations and obstacles that our producers encountered stabbed deep into our hearts. By now, this was something that we had serious emotional investments in. The idea of something of this caliber occurring, gave way to an exuberant passion that claimed God-given right for our overlooked city to have something this beautiful.

Bulletproof Tiger. (Omar Lozano/

Bulletproof Tiger. (Omar Lozano/

These thoughts are what justified the countless hours spent in the office, and the sweat and desperation of putting up a myriad sea of posters and flyers on every imaginable space I encountered.

Finally the day of the festival was here the hustle and bustle was an ultimate reality. The staff and volunteers all wore a determined productive face, yet most of us were oblivious and mostly nervous of what to expect. With streets finally closed off and the stages erected the Downtown area was beginning to look like the magical festival grounds we had envisioned. The crowds began to flow though the streets in rivers of bright hip faces.

We ran around the grounds, delivering items to the four stages, picking up musicians and fixing unforeseen problems as they arose through out the festival. The weight got to be as heavy as the El Paso sun for many of us. It was all of our responsibilities to take care of the thousands of people and to assure ourselves that their experience was nothing short of the best we could offer. As communication between the main producers was virtually depleting, the weight was eventually on each of our backs to make executive decisions on the wellbeing of the festival.

As the sun slowly disappeared into a cloudy desert sunset behind the buildings and mountains, the heavy stress, physical exhaustion and near panic fits of helplessness seemed to dissolve into a calm solace. The day had came and gone in one tired blink.

This was really happening. For the first time in my life, our feeble city was alive with the static buzz of people and music. Each of these was coexisting and feeding off one another in a way never before seen by my generation in this city. This was history and the future simultaneously working cohesively and we were all helping to create this bond.

As the night drew to a close, the seas of inebriated and enlightened youth spilled out of the festival grounds in a joyful diaspora. The number was later reported as 11,000! I managed to gather my poor fractured, sun beat, foul-smelling shell of a body enough to bring closure to the long day. As I arrived home, I sunk into my mattress with the sweet, aching pungency of accomplishment. I have never been more proud in being a part of any project than have been in helping to create a unique, memorable experience for El Paso’s young music lovers. Till’ next year!

6 thoughts on “Relevance leads to an internship epiphany in the neon desert

  1. I love this article. You can feel the passion and emotion for music in your writing. Nice work.

    I loved the festival too. And I’m so glad to have something like this in our hometown. The only piece missing, in my opinion, is the conference part of it. Some of the festivals like SXSW in Austin and the Latin Alternative Music Conference in NYC also have a conference component. Perhaps this is a way to get more of the music writers, critics, analysts, and scholars from other places to come to this festival.

    Just a thought.


  2. Big ups RAM! Thanks for the read, and i agree a the conference aspects of festivals create educational opportunities for deep music snobs and academic critics to revel in the experience. I believe first, in order to create tourism off of this festival, it must become a multiday event. This way outsiders from surrounding areas have reason to stay and experience el paso and use all those terrible unused hotels that are being built frantically.


  3. what an impressive article, straight up! normally, i’m not a big fan of “first-person narratives” in journalism, but this story really captured the pain, tears, joy and drive of what made this festival so unique, wonderful and memorable. it really was the night that el paso changed forever. moreover, it was written with such great eloquance and poise, unabashed by the onslaught of naysayers, much like the confidence in the volunteers and performers during the night of the show. in the end, and in the blink of an eye, we were on the map…..and it wouldn’t have been possible without you all.

    this was an excellent read, and i’m totally gonna pass it around. you’re a good writer, no doubt. i hope you pursue it as a career. good luck with everything, and hope to see ya at next years festival.

  4. Omar! You gave me goose bumps:) Thanks for helping make our vision a reality. Till next year…keep it rockin!

  5. What a great internship opportunity for you! I am so glad that this event was so successful, it was a really amazing and fun festival. I am so happy that El Paso is making a name for itself on the music scene!

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