An unofficial plea from a Block Party Founder
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT AN OFFICIAL COMMUNIQUE FROM THE CURRENT SUNSET HEIGHTS BLOCK PARTY COMMITTEE. IT IS A BIASED ARTICLE BY GABRIEL SOLIS
5 Years ago, in the midst of one of the greatest summers of our lives, a group of young workers, artists and–yeah, yeah, blah-blah, there it is…the sunset heights block party. I’m not even going to capitalize it anymore. The boisterousness of the title is too hard to find. It has about as revolutionary of an edge as the 2012 Obama campaign.
I’ve been writing these annual battle cries for the block party 5 years now, and its starting to sound more and more like “four score and seven years ago,” but rather than referencing a privileged group of slaveowners founding a bourgeois republic, I’m referencing a couple of communist drunkards founding a street party. And my lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that the substance of the event hasn’t transcended the previous incarnation: a street party.
But when my comrades and I founded the block party, that wasn’t exactly our intention. Sure we wanted some silly, Dionysian festivities. We never hid the fact that we believed in recreation for recreation’s sake (remember our slogan to “dress like a loon”). Yet we also had a political agenda: we wanted a communist event.
Not communist as in, All-Follow-The-Vanguard-Party Communist or Beloved-Leader Communist, or even post-Stalin “really existing socialism” Communist. We were talking about a lower-cased communism. A communism that was fully submerged in naïveté and idealism.
Looking back I do believe that our first incarnation celebrated that aura to its fullest extent. We created an event where the full emphasis was placed on non-consumerist communal joy. We produced an imagined “Sunset Heights Commune;” a place with children dancing in the street, cars vanished, money forbidden (buying and selling was forbidden the first year), mouths fed (free food, limited but free) and the corporate-banking world extinct. A place where music and art freely disseminated itself among a liberated cadre of freely associating neighbors–even if that liberation lasted a mere 8 hours.
If our first edition was something of an 1871 Paris Commune, the latest incarnations have been closer to a bloated, 1982 Moscow. New block party incarnations have been plagued by expanding beuaracracy, steeper bills, local skepticism and a dwindling cadre of volunteer organizers. Nevertheless, the old homies inform me that the event will return for another incarnation. And they tell me the following promising facts:
* El Paso Solar and El Paso Permaculture will be sponsoring organizations (eliciting donations for future community projects)
* Sun City Pride Will be selling booze, with funds going towards paying for the party and creating scholarships for El Chuco youth.
* The regular host of local social justice orgs will still be invited
* There is still no corporate sponsorship
* The event is still free for everybody
* The Party lives on
That being said, I believe that the spirit of the block party is endangered. And only one thing can save the spirit of the block party–you. What the block party needs now more than ever is for the working-class people of Sunset Heights and El Chuco tomobilize and make it THEIR party. Without active participation and co-optation by working people and the organizations that still serve their interests, this event becomes a mindless bacchanal. Don’t let this event become a day where we celebrate the already strong cult of consumption–let it be a day when we celebrate people power, a day where freely associated people seize a street and broadcast their joy, their life, their power.
In this sense, the block party can become more than a street festival; it can become a force. A force against an emergent ideology that has consumed the border: Fosterismo. And yes I am referring to the “man of El Paso,” the philanthropist, the industrialist, the baseball dude, the guy with money–Paul Foster. But Fosterismo is deeper than the man, it bleeds into the contours of a whole conviction that its steadily becoming stronger among the industrialists, politicians and landowners of El Paso–that El Paso is for sale.
This year, I urge you to give the block party a slogan (one already broadcasted by the old, historic, radical chicano standard): El Paso is Not For Sale! LEt every inch of the day radiate this message. Let it be a day that truly intimidates the uglies who imagine that it is for sale. Fill the day with music and speeches, the booths with radicals and organizers, decorate the fence with counter-capitalist slogans, drop banners against Fosterismo from every balcony, deface baseball bats, prohibit the sale of hot dogs, laugh at the bourgeoisie and urge everyone to make “Baseball Day” (nov 2nd) a day of surprise for the Fosteristas. And return to the primitive communist flair of the original year–share free food, share free water, share free love!
Make the sunset heights block party the Sunset Heights Block Party once more. Power to the people and long live the Sunset Heights Commune.
The Boy from Afar
0900 – 1000 CULT HEROES
0800 – 0900 SOUND ON SOUND
0700 – 0800 KONTRA GOLPE NOISE MANIFESTO
0600 – 0700 BISCUIT ROLLER
0500 – 0600 STEADY SHAKEDOWN
0400 – 0500 SONS OF VILLA
0300 – 0400 KIDS OF CASTRO
0200 – 0300 L.I.G.R.E.
0100 – 0200 ELECTRIC SOCIAL
1200 – 0100 SPECIAL GUEST
0830 – 0930 RIBO FLAVIN’
0730 – 0830 ROB BASS & AROM
0630 – 0730 BULLETPROOF TIGER
0530 – 0630 BUMPSTREET FONANZA
0430 – 0530 OUR FRIEND THE MOUNTAIN
0330 – 0430 HALFBREED LOVERS
0230 – 0330 WSTRN PLYLND
0130 – 0230 MANIFIQUE
1230 – 0130 SUBLEVELS]]>
I recently came across a flyer urging Sunset Heights residents to attend a meeting regarding the fate and future of the Sunset Heights block party. As I read I retrospectively reminisced the past block parties and realized the effort and commitment one man has bestowed upon our humble community. Through rain snow and sun one man has made it possible for one community to unite and form ties with neighbors, organizations and establishments where otherwise wouldn’t exit. Though the effort to bring about this even and make it a success is one of many I have to thank one man for putting our “venerable” neighborhood on the map.
Gabriel Solis one day decided to organize an event and he did. As a local resident of this neighborhood I didn’t understand what it was to give back to this community, thus after years of organization and planning I never once attended a meeting, I never once picked up a finger to help set forth this event. But as I read this flyer and read his name as a main contact I realized what strife, love, and commitment one man can have for a particular place in this vast world. As a 21 year veteran of Sunset Heights I claimed this “hood” to be mine; from the roaring complications of gang violence of the 80’s and 90’s, to the revitalization of today Sunset Heights has always been mine and in my heart. Not in a material sense but in a manner in which one spiritually evokes and soaks in an everlasting feeling of belonging. On this day as I write this I realize how to one person who made his life an El Paso, New York, Chicago, can take a place in his heart wherever he goes.
Thus without further a due, I would like to thank and congratulate Gabriel Solis for his success and accomplishments not only with the Block Party but also in life. I would like to thank him for the long hours committed to a cause of which he believed so adamantly could be possible; even through hundreds of miles love knows no boundaries. At times Gabriel would personally ask me to help the cause but I would turn the other cheek not knowing that I was letting my community down but my brother as well. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my ignorance for I will never know the selflessness and the unconditioned love one man can have for a cause.
Gabriel has taught me that when people get together for a common goal anything is possible. Thank you for making me believe and thank you for continuing the fight! As you read this the fate and future of the Sunset Heights 2012 Block Party is being set forth in motion. I call upon those who believe and those who don’t to lend a helping hand. Gabriel is a man of action and if you believe in him he will do anything in his power to go above and beyond for you. I ask now to all the non-believers, to those that think that one man can’t make a difference give the cause a chance. Sunset Heights deserves a helping hand, a listening ear, but most of all it needs the belief that we can make it happen. This is to Gabriel Solis, to my Sunset Heights, to your Sunset Heights; let’s make it happen Sunset Children. Let us go forth and believe in the power of one man and his ability to bring many together. Thank you Gabriel Solis!
RockOn El Paso tries to attain venues for up and coming bands in the El Paso area primarily. Sounds such as The Lusitania, L.I.G.R.E., Low Luster League, Ralpheene, Biscuit Roller, Attaks, Emily Davis and The Altar Boys, Mexicans at Night, Bumpstreet Fonanza have torn the stages and the list goes on and continues to grow. RockOn El Paso strives to bring in sounds from near and yet also from afar like Burning Hotels(Ft.Worth, TX), Cumbia Machin(San Diego,CA), Outernational(New York city), Tidal Waves(South Africa), Tornado Rider(Oakland, CA) and again much more. It’s a good time for the music scene in Chuco Town, the history of music in El Paso is rich and is proving to be alive and well. Long live Chuco Town and long live RockOn El Paso.
What connection is there between solar and rock? Hmmm. Where else to go but the Internet, for a clue, on the connection.
First query: solar and rock. Top Result: Solar Power Rocks. (solarpowerrocks.com)
Second Query: solar rock concert, Top Result: Solar Rock 2011 Festival.
Here’s the Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAHrFW8OGMY
So, after looking at the top results I’m wondering who’s appropriating who here? Is the sun appropriating rock, or is rock appropriating the sun? I think it may be some of both. Music, be it rock or otherwise, is a basic human need. The sun is the same for humans and indeed almost all life as we know it. We can live without electricity but not without the sun.
Rock music’s evolution from rhythm and blues and jazz (the true american contribution to music) owes it passage through time to artists like Miles Davis who chose to electrify rather than doing things the same old way. His vision opened the eyes of people the likes of Herbie Hancock and Chick Correa.
Solar power, on the other hand, is not an american tradition, yet. What would make it so? I’ll be digging up some answers, or at least some good questions, on that very issue.
What do you get when you combine a quintuplet of New Wave and indie rock with two tigers of electronic music? While the answers might be mixed, the general idea is uplifting beats that one can’t help but dance to, provided by two cherished El Paso groups: The D.A. and Bulletproof Tiger. More importantly, this melodic combination is having their first summer tour together, unofficially titled “Suk’n & Fuk’n 2012”…or “Bulletproof Tiger and The D.A. Summer Tour”, depending on which band member you talk to.
The fact that these two groups are so different from one another is what makes this tour, which kicks off at The Lowbrow Palace, so musically appropriate. On one side, you have the coy trumpet/hip guitar-and-keyboard fusion that is the D.A. while on the other, you have a a sensual-synthesizer/heavy-guitar duo masked in plastic tiger faces. But what these two bands have in common besides talent is that you will never see a bare dance floor when they play. Whether it’s to the electronic thumps of the tiger twins or the jubilant drumming of the eclectic quintet, both group’s music inevitably evoke the dancer in a concertgoer. But how did this combination come to be?
“We have been friends with The D.A. for years and have shared the stage before, but this is the first time we really got together on a big project like this tour,” said Bobby Miracles, guitarist of Bulletproof Tiger. “Me and Evan [Tremper] have been friends for almost ten years now. His first band in high school used to play shows with my first band in high school, so this reunion is a very nostalgic experience for the both of us.”
Evan Tremper plays drums for the D.A., which also comprises of Tyler Dudley on vocals, bass and guitar, Steve Escarzaga on the same, Cesar Muniz on keyboards and vocals and Michael Frisbee on trumpet, keyboards and vocals. The fantastic five has played alongside acclaimed indie bands and artists such as Foster the People, Yelle and Sparta. Going strong for around five years, The D.A.’s sound is influenced by music from ’80s essentials including Talking Heads and Michael Jackson. As far as what the letters D and A stand for…
“It used to stand for something, but we’re trying to forget that that ever happened and it just basically stands for whatever we come up with at that moment,” said Dudley. “Let’s say for now it’s Delinquent Adults.”
Regardless of what D.A. stands for, the group has accumulated a large fan base over the years, not just in El Paso, but across the Southwest. This tour will make it the third time they’ve played in California this year.
Bulletproof Tiger has its share of a large following as well. With Miracles and Jean-Luc Duvalier on the keys/synth, the harmonious felines have played for Austin’s SXSW, the Neon Desert Music Festival and the Sun City Music Festival alongside artists and groups such as Steve Aoki and Miami Horror. Their tiger getups might attract onlookers, but its their catchy, dance-inducing beats that keep crowds coming back for more. Formed in early 2010 by two musicians who’ve known each other since high school, Bulletproof Tiger’s future looks both promising and inspiring for local aspiring DJs.
“There is history being made as we speak in the El Paso music scene,” said Miracles. “Venues have been opening, big music festivals are being born and people are starting to show more love and support to local musicians. There is a beautiful ‘awakening’ happening in this city and we are more than excited and honored to be a part of this with all our friends.”
The D.A. and Bulletproof Tiger will tour the Southwest, hitting places such as LA’s Lot 1 Cafe and Las Vegas’ Beauty Bar. Dudley says he’s looking forward to touring with the electronic duo and sharing The D.A.’s “Jean-Claude Ram Van”(their Dodge Ram Van) with them, not only because the groups work well together, but because of the escape that music gives him as well.
“Whatever problems you’re having that day or that week or that month or that year, you’re not thinking about that through that 45 minutes or hour that you’re playing,” said Dudley.
The D.A. has persuaded the Brooklyn band, Friends, to play in El Paso between their Phoenix and Austin performances. Look for the two group’s collaboration in early July by following The D.A. or Friends.
Bulletproof Tiger will be playing the Chiwazon Music & Arts Festival, held in Chihuahua, Mexico on July 21. More information on their upcoming performances can be found on their Facebook, facebook.com/BulletproofTiger915.
-Victoria G. Molinar
The D.A./Bulletproof Tiger tour dates:
Wednesday, June 20 – The Lowbrow Palace – El Paso, TX
Thursday, June 21 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
Friday, June 22 – Tonic Tavern & Kitchen – Chandler, AZ
Saturday, June 23 – The Stage – San Diego, CA
Sunday, June 24 – Lot 1 Cafe – Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday, June 26 – Vitus – Oakland, CA
Wednesday, June 27 – Central Social Aid & Pleasure Club (Central SAPC) – Santa Monica, CA
Thursday, June 28 – Beauty Bar – Las Vegas, NV
Friday, June 29 – Mia’s Lounge – Flagstaff, AZ]]>
Homies and Non-Homies,
Fronterizas y Fronterizos
I am of the sincere belief that
the color of our days
are increasingly Leninist.
Here and there we wake up, turn on our computers and watch the protests. The protests are shown to us in-the-Live, vividly photographed, pre-recorded and widely disseminated. We digest this imagery as quickly as we can, and our digestion functions according to our particular bias. Some people cry, some people scream and many condemn. A smaller contingent participates.
Nevertheless, we are all responding, engaging with this Being of protest—and our engagement is shaping the era; shaping and molding it into a historical gig. Our bias affects our engagement, contorts the gig and deeply influences the color of our days.
My bias is Leninist and therefore, the color of my days are increasingly Leninist.
What then is a Leninist?
…The audience asks…
Well, this Leninist is someone who will refuse to answer such a question; because the Leninist is a human being in the process of a becoming itself—like every other being on this planet.
A better question is: Who was Lenin, why was he angry, how did he inspire other people to consider themselves Leninists, and why should El Paso-Juarez care?
I can only answer this question within the context of my own bias, so forgive me:
Lenin was a Russian revolutionary who begged the Russian people to view their era (World War I) as a special era, and to exploit the spirit of that special era for the sake of producing an egalitarian revolution. Lenin urged his Russian peoples to overthrow capitalism, feudalism and monarchy in the midst of the excessive violence (World War I) those three things had produced. Rather than accepting the ugliness of their era, Lenin promised that the Russian people could break with the violence of World War I and produce a better world.
A better world based on gender equality, universal education, the abolition of nations, workplace democracy and collective ownership.
That better world was to be called communism, and it never happened.
But Lenin did happen and so did his revolution. The Russian people ganged together, overthrew Tsar, Capitalist and Priest with the aim of producing a better world that would be called communism. Communism never came, but the attempt materialized.
So far, none of this explains how our days are increasingly Leninist. So let me explain:
I believe that we are on the verge of a new attempt—not necessarily for a pronounced “communist” society—but merely towards a new, inclusive, egalitarian society (which may later be considered communist). Its meat and intention has been un-pronounced, but the attempt is beginning to roll off our tongues with increasing ease. It is becoming easier and easier for us to imagine, to declare, that another world is possible. And this desire for another world—despite Lenin’s failures—is not necessarily destined to fail.
Will we condemn, applaud or directly participate in this new attempt for a better world? Will we push it further and further from the logic of our times—the logic of capitalism, “growth” and messianic war—or shall we settle for the standard gig, passively sympathizing, critiquing and distancing ourselves from those immersed in the Attempt?
This is inevitably the question that the Border must answer; because the Border is immersed in two special eras. The first is entirely local, concerning the coexistence of an emergent creative productivity among, with the horrific specter of drug violence, poverty and neo-liberal expansion. The second is international, concerning the global expansion of privatization, austerity, war, protest and capitalist crisis. Yet the greatest fiction we could ever write, is the idea that these elements are somehow unrelated to the violence on the Border.
So let us return to the question: Will El Chuco use its new creative energy to begin the next attempt at constructing a radically inclusive, egalitarian world? Or will El Chuco synthesize its creative potential with the ruling logic, and do “business as usual”?
I argue that we Fronterizos (at home and in-exile) should use this new vitality for the sake of challenging the violence, boredom and ecological devastation produced by capitalism. We must be like Lenin, like Mahkno, like Goldman, like Zapata, like Egypt, like Occupy—and seize the spirit of our age!
I, personally, will be like Lenin. I will continually urge my people, my precious desert-soul sisters, to resist, to protest and to construct.
And I invite you all to join me in this endeavor. Agitate, participate and consecrate a new era. Ours are Leninist days.]]>
Ever since I was young, I heard the music of WAR being played at family gatherings. So when I heard they were coming to town, I was ecstatic. As the nights of celebrations continued through the years, I noticed my family having a strong connection to the songs of their time. As the songs played, my aunts and uncles reminisced about their experiences during the Civil Rights Movement, in particular, La Raza Unida. La Raza Unida was the largest Hispanic national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. My family stood for Chicano rights and were deeply tied to La Raza Unida. The fact that just listening to WAR brought back their feelings of nostalgia and melancholy lead me to view the musicians of WAR as heroes to the Chicano movement.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered the members of WAR were not Chicanos at all but were black and white males. I was confused that my family would be so passionate about a group that had no Chicanos in it after all their stories about racial discrimination. It wasn’t until later that I realized that WAR was a band that transcended racial and cultural barriers. For that I have respected WAR as a very special band. It occurred to me that I had not placed the importance of this band into its proper cultural context.
I never thought twice about whether I should attend WAR’s performance at the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center. This was a band I absolutely had to see and experience live in the flesh for myself. Speaking about flesh, only two of the original members were present for the performance. The rest of their line-up consisted of talented fill-ins; i.e. non-holographic late members. By this, I’m referring to the “Tupac” hologram at Coachella. It was such a pleasure watching a band that has been around for decades long before I was born. With the up and coming holographic technology, it is now possible that we will begin to see bands whose members are deceased and no longer with us. This possibility only encourages me to fully enjoy live musical performances, such as that of WAR, by actual humans.
WAR did not disappoint. Lonnie Jordan, original keyboard/vocals, took the front stage and carried out the songs we all know and love from “Spill the Wine” to “The Cisco Kid”. Lee Oskar, original harmonica player, worked the crowd wearing a beret with a peace-sign and military dog tags. I later met him backstage with some friends to exchange conversation. I loved that I was able to observe and appreciate this band in the comfort of my own town of El Paso; such a multi-cultural diverse and unique city. I had a blast at the concert. Just being a part of the audience and the exchange of energy between us, the performers, and workers, was an extraordinary atmosphere that circulated good feeling, unity, and friendship. Cheers!!!]]>
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