'When the lengthy and extravagantly dressed Omar Apollo leaped his way stageward late in that uncharacteristically cold night, the Lowbrow Palace was never pumped fuller of heat.'
Evan Dale // Nov 13, 2019
It was only fitting if not borderline mystic that an extremely rare cold front pushed its way through the Mexico-Texas border in the wake of Omar Apollo’s new single, Frio. Most will say he brought it with him as he and Dijon made their way into El Paso for a show at the Lowbrow Palace. The Indiana native with Mexican roots was already having a breakout year highlighted by a barrage of singles – many of which manifested themselves into form of his indefinable Spring project, Friends – when he decided to head out on a largely sold-out tour of small venues in small markets. But he knew what he was doing.
El Paso – as the city is rightfully proud of – is the largest multi-national metropolitan area in the Western hemisphere. Flying in, as a plane circles in preparation for landing, it dips across the border and back again, highlighting stark contrasts and even starker similarities between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. That diversity – and even more importantly – the exuberant multi-culturalism as its result is not only apparent in El Paso but driving of its overarching cultural spectrum. Pride in Mexican and in Texan roots floods the city, harmonizing in a place as surprisingly celebratory of its patchwork identity as any other in the world.
Naturally, as an example of that multi-culturalism and two-way pride defined in creative form, Omar Apollo – a breakout star in an era that continuously cuts down the borders of genre – headlining an underground venue in El Paso drew a lot of attention.
In the wake of Dijon’s stirring performance that primed the audience with his signature acoustic-electro R&B experimentation, the electricity in the room reached an unforeseen peak. Constant debate of favorite Omar Apollo tracks and his apparent status as an emerging sex symbol gripped the entirety of the audience. Every strum from his tech guy’s tests brought with it cheers and exclamation from the hundreds of young patrons crammed into the multi-tiered unparalleled intimacy of the venue.
So, when the lengthy and extravagantly dressed Omar Apollo leaped his way stageward late in that uncharacteristically cold night, the Lowbrow Palace was never pumped fuller of heat. Sporting a sequence button-up, baggy 70’s-cut pants, and snake-skin Chelsea boots, Omar Apollo choked the crowd’s attention simply with his looks. In the next moments when he incorporated his band’s music and his dance moves into the equation, it was as if we were all seeing Freddy Mercury – in all his expectation-shattering self-expressionism – reborn for a new generation.
For an hour or more, Omar Apollo expertly maneuvered his canon, testing the die-hard crowd with sleeper hits and intermixing them with rangy anthems from the funk-driven Ashamed to the somber and heart-meltingTrouble. There are notes rarely hit by anyone outside of an upper-echelon node of R&B superstars that Omar Apollo effortlessly nailed. (The same can be said about Dijon). And there are moments when his seamless knack at melting the crowd with his guitar riffs shined him in a light as a proper rockstar.
And that’s because he is both of those things, and truthfully, much more.
Perhaps the most impressive of his peers that dabble in every corner of music, adding their experimental risks here and there to make it altogether new, Omar Apollo is a – maybe the – transcendentalist. Much like his hero, Freddy Mercury – whose canon he sampled for the show itself – Omar Apollo creates wayward of preconceived expectation and musical boundaries. His music is funk, soul, R&B, hip-hop, and rock. His music is from Indiana and Mexico and Motown and beyond. And his show at the Lowbrow Palace that night was one of the most unforgettable performances for anyone that made up the multicultural patchwork of El Paso’s youthful art underground.