SNOWBALL MUSIC FESTIVAL @ VAIL VALLEY | 3/2/12 (DAY 1)
It took about four bone-chilling minutes, starting at the opening of gates, to remind me of the frigid misery I signed up for again this year. Did I learn my lesson from last year in regard to snow boots, multiple layers, cash, and festival planning? No. I showed up again in skate shoes, but with really expensive socks, and traipsed around the festival from tent to tent, steadily soaking up the first days diverse music. And Snowball started off great.
Standing in line at the opening of the gates offered a great opportunity to mingle with some openers. I chatted it up with Boulder's Skywalkerr, a.k.a. James Burnell, for a bit, while FoCo's own Vinnie Maniscalco waited for his credentials (He'll be playing an after-party later this weekend). Arriving early to these events is a gamble, but I keep getting blown away by the opening acts that deserve much larger crowds -- Skywalkerr being one of those. His set in the Heat Hut brought the bodies and offered everyone a reason to start sweating early.
I managed to be the first person through the gate, but I can't take credit as the first fan to enter the festival. I was on a mission to cover as much ground as possible starting at the with main stage with Bonfire Dub and the School of Rock. Young Avon soon-to-be musicians were on the stage, welcoming the crowd and blessing the grounds with a choral rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." One little lady impressed us all with hula-hoop skills whilst strumming her delicate violin.
I then made my way over to the Groove Tent where THiCK CHiCK was getting things going. As more people made their way in at the main entrance, the Groove Tent slowly filled with more bodies. One of the high points of this set was the accidental homage to the later headliner, Big Boi, with a heavy hitting, drummed out version of "The Whole World."
Helicopter Showdown, a mayhem-filled quartet of DJs in the Groove Tent, really brought the party with bass-bombed tracks like "Jump Around" and "Zombie Nation." Its funny when acts like these play during the day because its such a different vibe from shows they play at night.
I digress. Helicopter Showdown threw down hard, and the steam began to pour out of the tent.
Eminence Ensemble really brought the temp up at the Ballroom Stage, but to a crowd that didn't warrant the energy. The Ballroom stage was in a strange spot that almost was distracting given the location and sound coming from the main stage. Either way, EE carried the crowd and brought the tempos up and down with the enthusiasm. Don't sleep on these guys. They may be young, but they are making the right waves in the right lakes.
Gramatik, a.k.a. Denis Jarevesic, was one of my most anticipated acts of the day. For days he has been saying he will be debuting the new album, and with chilled excitement, I waited in the tent to hear where he is taking his music. He opened with some hits of Beatz and Pieces Volume 1, and after about three old tracks, he jumped right into the new stuff. Showing off his hip-hop background, the new sounds are equally as intriguing and give glimpse to the diverse catalog that he chooses to sample from.
I then made my way back over to MartyParty, who was just opening with a M.I.A. "Bad Girls" remix, forcing every female to gyrate as sexually as possible. Marty Folb is no stranger to heavy bass, and with side projects like PantyRaid, he uses it wisely and with precise timing. I've been able to see Folb on several occasions under several monikers, and though this wasn't my favorite set of his, it was very enjoyable to watch him grind his way through with bass-infused fervor.
I couldn't help but stand in awe as Diplo and the Major Lazer crew took the stage. Flanked by a couple hype guys and spandex-clad dancers (not go-go dancers) the dance-hall music came blaring out and the people came running from all over. This could've been because the emcee was screaming into the microphone ,"EVERYONE RUN TO THE STAGE" or it was the music. With upbeat versions of "Papi Chulo" and "Pon de Floor," Major Lazer pumped booty shaking hits into all of our ears, and it was quite warming.
-- Britt Chester
Patrick Rodgers's take on Day 1 is on Page 2.
Getting to the SnowBall Music Festival is not for the faint of heart -- that much becomes clear a few miles west of Idaho Springs, when a snow flurry becomes snow fall on I-70, slowing traffic to a crawl once it accumulates. Signs warning of "Icy Road" seem almost mocking: uh, thanks Captain Obvious. But for those who make the journey, the music is worth it.
It's not until a few miles shy of the festival grounds that the snow lightens up and a happy little blob of blue sky appears above the landscape, as if Bob Ross put turquoise on his brush by mistake while putting the finishing touches on a strikingly unhappy painting of clouds. After checking in to the hotel and getting back to the festival grounds, it's a clear, sunny day, but bitter cold. The high was 18 and the low was around 7.
There is no shortage of warning, after all: one knows they are going to an outdoor music event in Colorado in early March, but the lack of any heat is surprising. Several people who paid full price for their tickets are perturbed that no one thought of putting more than one heat lamp out for the general public (there are two in the VIP area as well, making three on the whole grounds that I could see.)
There's also a troubling lack of signage. During the mile trek from the parking lot to the festival grounds, a wrong turn puts us at the back entrance, where no one is quite sure where to pick up passes. It results in having to walk around the circumference of the festival grounds, which sort of sucks, considering Avon's sidewalks are rarely much more than a sheet of ice. Again, this is definitely not for the faint of heart. You have to want to get there.
When Major Lazer takes the stage at 5:30 p.m. all that other bullshit fades away into a full-fledged dance orgy where personal space is forgotten in exchange for shimmying, gyrating, grinding and nearly unlimited styles of arm waving. There are two dancers who are killing it. One is wearing a leopard print body suit, and kicking her legs while standing on her head -- fluorescent pink sneakers scissoring the air. The other has dreads down to her waist and a bright yellow jumpsuit. This is what the Jamaican space program looked like before a Cool Runnings-esque change of fate. Cue the video montage.
Diplo absolutely kills it -- dropping a bunch of new Major Lazer tracks (including "Original Don" which has a hilarious video attached to it.) There's also some massive dubstep, a drop of "N****s in Paris" off Jay-Z and Kanye'sWatch the Throne
, and loads of pounding tropical bass and dance hall. While I worried that their starting while the sun was still shining might prove problematic to the late night regulars, once the sun set, everything kicked up the next level, including the light show.
It's cold out here? What are you talking about? Things are in full swing now. Hoards of people wandering around. By 7 p.m. I've seen a guy in a bear suit made of yarn, a furry zebra beast and a guy getting escorted out in handcuffs. The party has started.
Big Boi had a tough act to follow, and in hindsight it might've made more sense to have him on for sunset (his lighting had a blaze orange, sunset vibe to it anyway), because even though Daddy Fat Sacks brought some classic heat from the Outkast catalog, it seemed like no match for the throbbing, pulsing, bass-heavy mayhem unleashed by Major Lazer just a half hour earlier.
I could really use a foot warmer, but the only heat source available is a heat lamp about six and a half feet off the ground. "Could I stand on my head to warm my feet," one passing guy wonders to no one in particular.
One girl is so enthusiastic about the heat that her glove catches fire after accidentally putting her hand too close to the lamp. (She was fine, but her glove was singed through.) I decide to go out in search of the Heat Hut, a structure I can see labeled on my map, but which I haven't had a chance to visit yet. The Heat Hut is sort of a disappointment. Its name must be a metaphor or something. Don't call anything the Heat Hut if there's no heat in it. That's not fair. I thought it would be my oasis of warmth. Instead, I just danced to Wolf+Lamb and Soul Chop for a few minutes -- that helped a little, but it wasn't exactly a roaring fire place.
Across the way, in the Groove Tent, Mimosa was destroying his set. Perched in the middle of an LCD pyramid, his silhouette was cut against a psychedelic stream of colored light patterns covering the DJ booth. He laid down an interesting cross section of dubstep, from easy rollers to straight-up bangers with occasional forays into crunchier, left field material.
Confetti and beer cans litter the ground. There's a guy with a mohawk and light-up finger clips flipping everyone off.
Some random dude is yelling "Why am I the one taking care of your little sister right now?" to a girl standing nearby. I can't feel my right foot. I think it's time to go home. It's been a long day.
-- Patrick Rodgers
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