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Global Dance Festival is a growing, changing phenomenon that's taken founder Ha Hau to places he probably didn't foresee when he found himself in an unenviable situation. In 2003, when radio station KTCL canceled Rave on the Rocks — the massive annual dance party held at Red Rocks — Hau and business partner Kostas Kouremenos were the ones holding the artist contracts. "So we went ahead and just did the show, and it took a few years to rebuild it to the point where we were selling out again," Hau recalls.
When it reached that point, Hau and Kostas extended the festival to two days, and then three. Hau's production company, Triad Dragons (which he co-founded with friend and associate John Le), began using Global Dance as its promotional business name, keeping Triad Dragons for the group's purely musical endeavors. Since then, the festival has brought in huge names from all over the globe, helping solidify Denver's place in the EDM world.
It's been a priority for the promoters to keep things fresh. "There are so many subgenres of EDM, and I'm trying to touch base with all of them," Hau explains. "With Global, I want to diversify the lineup and the appeal." That's why he started booking dubstep- and glitch-leaning artists at the festival and enlisted local dubstep production company Sub.mission to host a Global stage on Sunday.
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It's also the reason he's tapped Colin Chmielewski and Mahesh Patel, the local duo behind event company Afterhours Anonymous (AA), to choose the acts for one of the Global stages on Saturday night. The pair has brought some of the highest-quality international talent to Denver to entertain packed dance floors.
It's notable that the promoters of the prestigious three-night Global Dance Festival have opened one of their Saturday stages to another production company, particularly one that caters to a distinctly different crowd. But that's exactly the point. And, as it turns out, the alliance isn't as unlikely as it might seem.
Hau and Patel have known each other for years, and they'd spoken about doing something together in the past. The time was never right, but then, last summer, it was. "What's popular in after-hours is a techno/tech-house kind of sound, particularly in Denver," Hau points out, "and that's a sound I never really pushed so much. I wanted to finally give that a shot and see if I could get that audience out to Global. As EDM has grown, that sound has also grown, and it's my job as a promoter to give the market what they want."
So AA took up the challenge — and it was challenging. It's not always easy to book notable artists in the summertime, mostly because they're all at festivals or playing at clubs in Ibiza. But the men of AA ended up booking Silent Servant as a headliner and showcased a selection of local talent — and the audience loved it. "The feedback was excellent," Patel remembers. "We were worried about the fact that it's a commercial event overall, and sometimes our crowd can be a little selective in the type of events they attend."
It's true — many people who went to Global specifically to see Silent Servant and the rest of the AA stage might not have attended otherwise. The typical Global attendee skews younger than the average AA crowd — and with age sometimes comes a jaded attitude. So presenting the stage meant mixing two worlds, in a sense, but it all went down beautifully.
"The people who came had a great time," Chmielewski notes, "and even the people who were new to that kind of music — you could see some of those lights going off in their head, hearing that sound for the first time."
And for Chmielewski and Patel, just as it is for Hau, diversity and innovation in event production is vital to their success. "We make an effort to try to think outside the box and be open to possibilities," says Chmielewski. "Some people in the scene are closed off; they have tunnel vision; they never want to do anything that would be too commercial. And it is an underground scene, but we're trying to grow our stuff into something bigger."
Hence booking acts like Maya Jane Coles at NORAD, a show that Hau says proves AA is making an impact. "She sold out that venue," he notes. "That really signifies that there are a good amount of people in Denver who know their music and will go to see artists like her." And Hau wants those people at Global. "I was down there last year," he says, "and those kids — they love it. The people down there knew the music and were passionate about it, and I felt like they came to see that stage — they came to hang out there all night long. And I wanted to continue to push that."
This year, while artists like Beats Antique, EOTO, Emancipator, Conspirator, Papadosio and more headline the main stage at Red Rocks, techno god Robag Wruhme (on a rare trip across the pond from Berlin) is headlining the AA stage, and house-set spinner Justin Martin (of the infamous dirtybird crew) will also hit the decks with Justin Sloe of Droog and local favorites Nutmeg and Oona Dahl. "I wanted to challenge people who had this conception about Global and say, 'I'll never go to that,'" Chmielewski says. "We wanted to put together a lineup diverse enough so they would say, 'This is worth my money.' Robag does that; he's very diverse, eclectic, and he doesn't get to the U.S. a lot, so we're excited to see him in the outdoor venue. And dirtybird has been huge in Denver, so Justin Martin is well known, and I felt like it was a good contrast."