Since nature abhors a vacuum, the next emerging subculture to draw the attention of kids in America was the hip-hop nation. Marked by strict, self-imposed geopolitical boundaries, listeners chose between the wicked, funked-out wizardry of West Coast artists like Dr. Dre and the thick, gloriously unrefined buzz of East Coast acts like the Wu-Tang Clan.
In the post-grunge landscape, gangsta rap became the de facto jam du jour across America. For a while, anyway. The scale and record sales tipped toward the Empire State over the course of a year that saw Wu-Tang release their debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Within a year of that record’s explosive reception, Clan member Method Man followed up with a career-defining solo effort, Tical.
Meanwhile, during that same slice of time (roughly mid-1993 through 1994), the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque was a bitchin' place to see a show, even though they were still mostly into rocanrol at the time.
It’s somehow appropriate, maybe even mythic, that these two narratives—the rise of hip-hop nation and the history of the El Rey Theater—come together 20 years on.
There was a shadowy, crumbly green room behind the stage where thousands of musicians had scrawled their names and drawn profane things on the wall. An impossibly steep stairway on the other side of the auditorium led to a set of restrooms outfitted with wooden stalls. There was a bar up there in the balcony and two more downstairs. It was roomy and dark downstairs with hurricane lamps fluttering from the overhead fans. Oh, and cold beer; they had cold beer in cans.
There were all sorts of cool bands touring back then, too. Bands that played the El Rey Theater in ’94 included El Vez, The Time, Dread Zeppelin and Ben Folds Five, and Tool played the theater in April of ’94.
It’s somehow appropriate, maybe even mythic, that these two narratives come together 20 years on. Though the El Rey has seen fits and starts during the 21st century, the joint’s new management appears prepared to breathe new life into a venue that's not only of historic interest but also happens to be a damn fine place to see a show.
Individually and as a duo, Method Man & Redman continue to flow with gritty intensity, demonstrating a commitment to their art that surpasses whatever pop culture objectives the genre initially set out to collectively conquer. In concert with the headliner, opening act The ReMINDers (soulful hip-hop originating from the Congo and the Big Apple), DJs Flo Fader and Ohm and the venue itself are ultra-chido symbols of resilience for hip-hop and for Burque. It’s an 18-plus show, dig, on Sunday, May 25, at 8pm at the El Rey Theater (620 Central SW). Doors open at 7pm, and tickets run from $45 for general admission to $89 for VIP status; as of press time, all “party bus” packages, which cost $125, are sold out.