The organ was originally installed in the theater in 1930. Dave Acosta / El Paso Times
If you’ve followed my column over the years, you know I cannot stand the notion that “there is nothing to do in El Paso.”
The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of things to do in El Paso.
If you’re into sports, there’s the obvious — Chihuahuas baseball and UTEP football and basketball. But did you know El Paso is also home to not one, but two successful hockey teams? The El Paso Rhinos (currently 27-0-0 on the season) and the UTEP Hockey Club, which won its conference championship in 2017.
If you’re into live music, there’s everything from bar bands playing your favorite radio hits at places like the Pershing Inn, to local indie, metal, electronic and rock bands at places like Lowbrow Palace and Rockhouse Bar & Grill. National acts regularly sell out mid-sized venues such as Tricky Falls and the Plaza Theatre. And this year saw some truly big arena acts with sold-out concerts for Green Day at the El Paso County Coliseum (not to mention all the terrific Latin acts that play this venue monthly), Elton John at the Don Haskins Center and Guns N’ Roses at Sun Bowl Stadium.
And let’s not forget all the fun (and usually free) family events that are held throughout the city.
Here are my 10 favorite entertainment events, in no particular order, for 2017:
Dave Koz’s annual Christmas concert: I attended Koz’s show for the second time this week. Even if you’re not a fan of Christmas music, the concert is a showcase of terrific jazz and pop musicians and a lot of fun. Plus, it’s starting to become a little Christmas tradition for my mom and me, making it even more special.Chihuahuas baseball: I only made it to one game this season, but it was a standout because a nice couple near the box office had two extra tickets, which they gave to me for free before I purchased my own. My friend and I didn’t realize until we found our seats that they were in the first row, directly behind home plate. If you’ve never seen a game from up that close, do it! It’s a whole other experience, and even if you can’t luck into some free seats, Chihuahuas tickets are fairly priced.Neon Desert Music Festival: Like Koz, this is an event I never attended before I became an entertainment reporter. And like the annual Christmas concert, it’s something I regret. What I tell people is, even if you don’t think there are many acts on the bill you would like, go for the experience. The Downtown, outdoors festival is nothing if not a party. Plus, after two years of chasing them at South by Southwest in Austin, I finally saw Migos perform, in my hometown, no less.Khalid at Tricky Falls: About 1,500 of us will have the opportunity to say, “We saw Khalid perform back when.” Before the release of “American Teen,” before the VMA for Best New Artist and before the Grammy nominations, those of us early adopters got to see a glimpse of what was to come at a sold-out Tricky Falls.El Paso nightlife: The boom in nightlife that has happened over the past 12 to 24 months has been astounding. East Side bars are routinely breaking sales records. Cincinnati is back and still growing. Downtown has a variety of bars and restaurants. It almost makes me wish I was in my 20s again. Luckily, as a DJ at some local hot spots, I’m able to at least witness the fun and help it along.Guns N’ Roses: I’m always skeptical of seeing legacy acts, even reunited ones, perform live. But Guns N’ Roses didn’t disappoint; in fact, they surprised. A somewhat trimmed down Axl can still scream the hair off your head. Seeing Slash and Duff back onstage alongside their estranged frontman after 20 years was worth the wait.Elton John: Special thanks to the UTEP Department of Special Events for the fantastic review seats. Seeing the legendary Elton John up-close-and-personal was special. And his shout-out to Khalid, who was in the audience, was another bit of magic you only got to witness if you were there.Plaza Classic Film Festival: As I said before, this list is not in any particular order, but the Plaza Classic is by far my favorite El Paso event. I love classic movies, and I love the venue. The guests, Richard Dreyfuss, Kathleen Turner and Don Bluth, were fun and insightful. And again, you had to be there to see Bluth reveal that his Disney animation dreams were born right there in that very theater.Chalk the Block: The annual public arts festival is fun, free and quirky. The organizers do a great job of finding interesting installations and music acts to bring to the festival each year, and 2017 was no different.Theater events: I couldn’t pick one favorite show I’ve seen this year, so I’ll just lump them all together. El Paso has a variety of theater events throughout the year. There’s community and children’s theater with the El Paso Playhouse, Kids-N-Co. and UTEP’s theater programs. There’s the highly talented group of actors who are regulars in the UTEP Dinner Theatre’s season of musicals, and of course, there are professional touring Broadway musicals at the Plaza Theatre’s Broadway in El Paso. They are all fun and affordable choices for theater lovers and newbies like myself.
Dave Acosta may be reached at 546-6138; firstname.lastname@example.org; @Chuy_Vuitton on Twitter.