El Paso In Heat
My trip across the State looked to be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, but thanks to the help of Abilene insurance adjustor Russell (hi Russ!) and an El Paso body shop, Van Halen will soon be back on the road, guzzling gas up into the panhandle/across the Dallas metroplex, and then eventually to east Texas. I'm kind of dying to get out of El Paso, not because it's hot and weird here (it is) but because after a sojourn south and west I'm getting more and more curious how things will change once I get to the more northern and eastern parts of Texas. Also: I know the Dallas and Denton area pretty well already, but it's been some time since I've regularly visited the venues around there...some of which I'll never see again, of course, because they've closed. When I hit what's left of Deep Ellum, I'll make sure to pour one out for the Gypsy Tea Room and Trees.
So here in El Paso, Mexican food tastes different and people live on a fault line between countries, states, and cities. At a dinner visit with a friend's dad earlier this week, my girlfriend and I were shown Juarez on the west as we drove into New Mexico for a few minutes. Living in a place where so much intersects creates a different sort of self-awareness. My friend said she didn't think of herself so much as Texan as “El Pasoin,” which makes sense considering this city is so far flung to the west that it has more in common with neighboring states and countries than it does with Austin. But in other ways it's just another big city in Texas, and the creature comforts we expect from any metropolitan hub. In El Paso's case, we have trendy and sad college hotspots (Liquor Dicks) sidled up against genuinely nice independent outfits (like Kinley's coffee, where I'm now typing). The curious thing about this city is that independent/mainstream culture tend to blend more than they typically do in Austin.
Sand burial, an El Paso specialty
For example: we stopped into local bar Hope and Anchor (co-owend by El Paso musical icon Jim Ward) and enjoyed the good drinks, fine atmosphere and décor...until the place was slowly overrun with cologne-bathed bros and dolled up club babes like they had a run on body shots. The same paradox was in full effect last night, when another friend of mine and I went to Club 101 to catch Unearth, a Massachusetts metal band whose latest release Darkness In The Light just came out this Tuesday. So we jump into the forerunner or whatever and head down to the east part of town – where the body shop, all good margaritas and airport live – and proceed to catch about five songs from the band before the house lights came on and they called it a night. At 10:45.
Mission Mary near Balmorhea State Park
The venue was an odd one, and my friend pointed out the cages for dancing ladies and explained that the club usually catered to DJ sets and bottle service and that sort of thing. The sound was fine, the band was intense, but the circumstances were just so odd. Turns out the whole thing started at 7:00, an important piece of information not notated anywhere on the venue's official website or on their Facebook – the latter being more concerned with the upcoming HARD festival and Hernan Cattaneo's upcoming appearance. Unearth's show wasn't even mentioned.
Inside of Mission Mary
Anyway. The band gave a solid and heavy-hitting performance during what we caught of their set. Darkness in the Light is an intricate album of full-throttle death metal as well as tuneful passages of lead guitar and vocals. The split between punchy riffage/sweet harmonics and guttural screaming/clean vocals is a tightrope the band walk well. Fans growled along to “Black Hearts Now Reign” off of 2004's The Oncoming Storm, and guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath did double time as interchangeable rhythm and lead guitarists - sometimes dueling on Iron Maiden-style lines and at other times laying down solid heavy riffs that I'll assume made the dancing cages and disco lights quake [see “Arise the War Cry” on their latest for an example].
The band stayed afterward to meet and pose with fans, and then the whole thing was wrapped up by eleven. Not a bad way to close things out on a weeknight...given that you knew about it in advance.
Parents - want to disappoint your children? Take them to the Odessa meteor site and watch their excitement at seeing the site of a natural catastrophe melt into boredom and heatstroke.