Snowball Festival's organizers on how it came together and what inspired it
This weekend's Snowball Festival in the Vail Valley has already surpassed expectations. Barely in its first year, and the festival has put together an impressive lineup that includes acts like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, the Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives and Diplo, alongside a slew of locals such as Gauntlet Hair, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Air Dubai, Big Gigantic, Eoto, MTHDS and Savoy, among others - which are slated to perform on three stages. In advance of the fest, we caught up with organizers to find out more about how the whole thing came together and what went into crafting the bill.
Westword: What sparked the Snowball Festival?
Chip Herter: The entire idea stemmed from one person's mind, Chad Donnelly, who is noted as the creator of the festival. His combined love for the mountains and music conjured up the idea of bringing a major music festival to the Vail Valley. When I approached him to help, I was inspired by the void left in the Colorado festival scene after the Monolith music festival disbanded.
They put on a great production, and they were a viable resource for bringing indie and electronic music to the fans in Colorado. When they announced that there would no longer be a Monolith Festival, there was an opportunity for something new to happen. The Snow Ball had perfect timing.
Latane Hughes: Chad had this dream before Coachella of last year... By the end of summer, 2010, it had started to become a reality. We just wanted to explore the idea of using snowy mountains and winter weather as a festival setting, to offer an environment that is unlike the common "summer" festival. The ability to combine our festival tickets with the mountain's lift tickets gives the festival something unique in terms of experience and offers a value to the festival's patrons that they cannot get at other music festivals.
This picked up a lot of momentum fast. What factors came into play in regards to this taking off so quickly?
CH: The concept took off very fast. There is no way of avoiding the delicious pun that the festival "snowballed" into something bigger than we could have dreamed of. For the most part, we can only attribute this growth to the artists that agreed to be on the bill, and the fans that love them. It's a combination of knowing good music and knowing what the fans want to see. Right out of the gate, confirming Pretty Lights and Bassnectar was an awesome representation of both, and tying it all together with the Flaming Lips, opened up the event to an even broader audience.
LH: I think it helped that people like myself and [Vail promoter & Snowball Talent Buyer] Scotty Stoughton had pre-existing relationships with many of the artists. Both he and I put on independent concert promotions in Los Angeles and Vail, respectively. And when the idea of this festival came into play, we reached out to many people we had previously worked with and asked them if they would be interested.
Most of them dug the idea and blocked off the dates... and there you have it. It also helps that our festival falls just a week before SXSW, so many artists from all over the world were already in the country, looking to gig. As far as the quickness of the idea reaching the fans, information travels faster than ever these days. There is no other way to explain it. With the power of the Internet anything is conceivable, and social networks have been very valuable to us in terms of shaping the festival experience.
Who is in charge of organizing the talent?
LH: While I was the main programming director, we were pretty focused on keeping the talent decisions very internal amongst a core of us, so as not to have the lineup be watered down by too many different "cooks in the kitchen." Branding the festival as progressive, hip, and daring was something we wanted from the start.
Everything moves faster these days, and people are more willing to try new things than ever before. So we want to be sure to run at that speed and set a precedent that we are a festival that you shouldn't miss out on or overlook. We want all of the festival goers in 2012 to look back at the 2011 lineup and say, "Wow, I can't believe all these guys played together last year... these guys are all huge now... I should definitely not miss out this year."
Being the first of it's kind in Vail, what were the expectations when this first was announced?
CH: We can safely say, we did not know what to expect; but what we've seen is an overwhelming response of support from the businesses and residents in Vail Valley, especially the town of Avon, as well as the enthusiastic support of music fans all over the world. It is a very conceptual festival -- combining world-class music with the world-renowned skiing/snowboarding terrain of the Vail Valley -- and the positive response we've seen has exceeded any expectations we may have had.
There is music for everyone from Flaming Lips fans, to the big name dubsteppers like Bassnectar. Then there is local talent like Robotic Pirate Monkey and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. How did the local talent make it's way in?
CH: From the start, we agreed that regional talent needed to have a presence in the festival's programming. It is our way to show support for the bolstering music community in Colorado, and it is our way of staying grounded to our Colorado roots amidst such a massive national lineup. The Colorado music scene is nothing short of exciting, and these bands deserve to be highlighted among the world-class talent on the bill. Not just because they are home-grown, but also because they possess unmatchable talent, even on a national level.
LH: Local talent provides the soul of the festival. What better way to reach the true music fans in Colorado than to involve and inspire the local talent within the region. They are the tastemakers, the medium to the true fans, the people that are the most passionate [music] fans themselves, and directly convey the excitement of the festival to the Colorado population. As we have always said, this festival is very grass-roots, and it's launch is very much credited to the talent at the ground floor like Gauntlet Hair, RPM, Candy Claws, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Springdale Quartet, Air Dubai and others.
A three day festival is no joke, and this being the first year of Snowball, what kinds of expectations are there about the success of it?
CH: It's true, a three-day festival is an exceptional venture, not to mention the first of it's kind to nestle into the snow-sport community. That said, we hope that the concept connects well enough with that community of snow-and-music fans to carry the weight of the event onward.
The festival's producers are striving to create a fantastic fan-experience from beginning to end, because they believe if the festival is to be a success, it first needs to succeed in the minds of all the people willing to travel far and wide to be there. It is a fan's festival, first and foremost. The rest, hopefully, will fall into place.
Did it -- and can it -- given the location, sell out?
CH: While there are still some tickets available, we do predict a sellout. The festival's main stages being at Nottingham park in Avon gives this event a lower capacity -- 10,000 capacity per day -- when compared to monster festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo. We like to think this adds to the "boutique" feel of the event, keeping the crowd smaller and condensed to that of truly dedicated fans of the performing artists. Hopefully this ends up contributing to the overall fan experience.
With fans giving feedback on lineups and times, you were able to accommodate and move around shows. This makes this a real "fans show". Are there plans in the works for next year, or will the following Monday provide this sort of foresight?
Chad Donnelly: If you can believe it, we have already started planning for next year and beyond. This is such a massive event that the planning never really stops. We are all so passionate and committed to improving the event, that I can't really imagine anyone from our team taking a day off.
CH: Speaking on the "fan response" to the initial lineup: I think what we saw in fan-response to our initial performance schedule was a real testament to the power of social-networks like Facebook. When the fans reached out with concern that too many of their favorite artists had overlapping sets, the festival responded by improving the schedule to meet the fan's desires.
And when the fans expressed their doubts over the festival's early curfew, in consideration of the residents of Avon, the festival responded with an astounding lineup of official after-parties, which feature festival artists -- Savoy, Big Gigantic, Classixx, Twin Shadow and more -- playing to smaller club audiences throughout the Vail Valley. It's evidence that this is indeed a fan-oriented event.
The fans have a voice, and we let it be heard. We love the community of people that the festival is building. Our Facebook page is bustling every day with everything from shared videos to exclamations of pure excitement. Even people making new friends and finding roommates for the weekend of the Snowball. It's unlike anything I have ever seen.
LH: Yes, we have tried to make this a show for the fans. Especially for a first time festival. we feel it's very important to react to the concerns of the early adopters and empower them to help make this thing a long lasting tradition.
Click through for full three day lineup and schedule
FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Main Stage 02:45 - 03:15 - Superhumanoids 03:45 - 04:15 - Gauntlet Hair 04:45 - 05:15 - Mansions on the Moon 05:15 - 06:15 - Lord Huron 06:45 - 08:00 - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros 08:30 - 10:00 - Pretty Lights
Groove Tent 02:10 - 02:50 - Robotic Pirate Monkey 03:00 - 03:45 - RAC 03:55 - 04:55 - Porter Robinson 05:05 - 06:05 - Zed's Dead 06:15 - 07:15 - 12th Planet 07:30 - 08:30 - Diplo
The Heat Hut 02:00 - 02:30 - DJ Lito 02:45 - 03:15 - Snake Rattle Rattle Snake 03:30 - 04:00 - McADOO 04:30 - 05:15 - DJ Annalog 05:30 - 06:15 - Ecto Cooler 06:30 - 07:15 - Laserdisk Party Sex 07:30 - 08:15 - Mr. Anonymous
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Main Stage 02:00 - 02:30 - The Chain Gang of 1974 03:00 - 03:30 - Twin Shadow 04:00 - 04:45 - Big Gigantic 05:15 - 06:15 - Local Natives 06:45 - 07:45 - Lotus 08:30 - 10:00 - Bassnectar
Groove Tent 02:00 - 02:30 - MTHDS 02:45 - 03:15 - American Royalty 03:25 - 04:10 - Onra 04:20 - 05:05 - Sam Adams 05:15 - 06:00 - Paper Diamond 06:15 - 07:15 - Classixx 07:30 - 08:30 - Savoy
The Heat Hut 02:30 - 03:15 - Rabbits Running 03:30 - 04:15 - Candy Claws 04:30 - 05:15 - Steffi Graf 05:30 - 06:15 - //Bones 06:30 - 07:15 - Mo Rockin 07:30 - 08:15 - Scorpion Breath
SUNDAY, MARCH 6
Main Stage 01:00 - 01:30 - Emory Quinn 02:00 - 02:45 - Brother Ali 03:15 - 04:00 - Miami Horror 04:30 - 05:30 - Portugal. The Man 06:00 - 07:30 - The Flaming Lips
Groove Tent 01:00 - 01:40 - Sugarpill 01:50 - 02:30 - Michael Menert 02:40 - 03:15 - Afro Man 03:25 - 04:05 - Baths 04:15 - 04:55 - Eskmo 05:10 - 06:00 - Eoto
The Heat Hut 01:30 - 02:00 - Con Bro Chill 02:30 - 03:15 - Jesse Woods 03:30 - 04:15 - Springdale Quartet 04:30 - 05:15 - Air Dubai 05:30 - 06:15 - Oliver Vanity
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.