By Alex Hinojosa
Nestled among several warehouses and industrial businesses in East El Paso is a hidden musical gem.
From the outside, 306 Sessions, located within the Sun City Business Park, doesn’t look like much. The door is typically locked during the day – and the grey gate is closed too. It appears like it’s just a small storage warehouse with a tan – and rather bland – looking exterior.
But on Sunday evenings, when the doors open, lights from inside brighten the exterior. A painted guitar hangs above the entry way.
Inside, someone asks for a $5 cover charge, and then asks if you’d like to purchase some local music from El Paso and New Mexico, while sitting in a makeshift desk, made with several 2-by-4s. The area is dimly lit, and on the wall are pictures and posters of local music groups – both solo artists and bands.
From there, you enter a room, with a black, long sofa and several round tables with chairs. The large wall in front of the sofa has a video playing – it’s of the live vocal artist that is singing live on the stage.
As she sings, a cameraman, operates a crane in front of her – recording her every note and facial expression as she sings to the crowd. The recording by Zeven Music Entertainment, once complete, will be hers to take home for free.
Founded by Ruben Chang, 306 Sessions showcases local artists and bands, who play original music. The musical venue, which has live recorded sessions for their concert series, is showcased on KCOS – the local PBS affiliate and airs at 9:30 p.m., before Austin City Limits.
Chang said his vision for the studio became a reality in 2013. Chang said it all began when a friend of his, an upholster who owned the unit, suggested that he used a portion of the unit for a studio.
“He was a singer and he would go to my house, and I had a little studio in my garage, and he would come by and sing,” Chang said. “And I came over (to the unit) once and there was a mess with all of his stuff – and he said, ‘Get the other half of the unit.’ It was a good idea – but he wanted me to pay for half of it – but I thought about it and decided – I could make it work.”
The first floor of 306 sessions is a staging area with a small section for the audience. But to the left to the stage is a staircase that leads to a small seating area with a vanity, and a recording studio that can easily hold an entire band very comfortably.
Chang said he added the upstairs area himself. He was able to get the parts for his studio by dumpster diving.
“The great thing about this area – the business park – is that it’s an industrial area. So, there are a lot of 2-by-4 pieces of wood, insulation and other materials just lying around. They have everything here that I needed,” he said.
Chang, an artist himself who sings in his own band, “10-Second Pistol,” said one of the hardest thing for local artists is finding a place to play.
“You know it’s difficult because the places here – namely bars – are interested in making money and if you don’t play covers it can be hard to break in,” Chang said. “So when you are starting off you are doing a lot of stuff for free.”
Aside from his musical talent, Chang also worked as a camera operator for Televisa and Telemundo. Taking his expertise, he thought he would use them toward a film project, “Paleta Power.” The film was showcased at Bassett Premiere Cinemas to a full theater, in 2016.
“It was a nice turnout, and we had the media there, and I had musicians – local musicians – that had done part of the score for the project and I wrote the music and the lyrics and got people to perform them,” Chang said. “So, on the opening day of the film, I had people come up to me and suggest that I should do a show every week to showcase local artists – and that’s how 306 Sessions got started.”
Before jumping in Chang made sure he was prepared.
With time, patience and determination, Chang was able to construct the complete 306 Sessions studio and make it what it is today – a dynamic variety music show created to highlight and showcase the talents of local and traveling artists.
“You know how they say, ‘Good things come to those who wait? Well, that’s a bunch of bull – great things come to those who make things happen for themselves. And in my case I’ve been making this happen for everyone else. You know – I used to have an argument with the man upstairs. I used to ask Him why he had given me this musical talent, when I was having a hard time breaking in. After a while, I thought – well I’ll make 306 Sessions happen for others and see what happens.”
Chang has since been the head of his studio, and showcased many local artists and created many connections – all at his own expense. To make ends meet, Chang changes into different hats as a personal trainer and a commercial producer.
“I’m constantly have to take from Peter to pay Paul, but this is my passion,” Chang said. “If one week, we make a little money that goes to the lights, or the utilities. If there is more that goes to hot dogs, and if there’s still some left over, well that goes to equipment and so on.”
306 Sessions, located at 11394 James Watt Drive in suite 306, has live music on Sundays, at with doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starting between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Musicians looking to play should contact Chang at (915) 412-3403 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Live filming does take place, so it is encouraged that the audience cheer loudly.