Altitude Music Festival at CU Boulder, 4/28/12

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See Also: Altitude Music Festival slide show Q&A with GramatikSnowball Music Festival 2012, Day One and Day TwoCU WelcomeFest 2011Sonic Bloom pre-party slideshow featuring GRiZ

CU Program Council and Insomniac Events blew the walls of Balch Field House last night with what will hopefully turn into the annual Altitude Music Festival. Boasting an impressive line-up of local and international electronic dance outfits, the workout received by all in attendance at the Folsom Field flanking venue could easily rival that of any collegiate football team.

By the time Gramatik took the stage, the energy was reaching a fever pitch with shrieks and screams of anticipation. Gramatik has hit Denver several times in the past year, including its recent appearance at the Snowball Music Festival. Last night, Boulder was treated to a concoction of downtempo hip-hop beats that reflect Gramatik mastermind Denis Jaravesic's affinity for chill-out tracks.

New tracks were mixed in, and whereas the production is on par with fellow Pretty Lights Music artists, the sounds show the new direction that Jaravesic is taking. There is an obvious contrast in the tracks: Whereas Beatz and Pieces Vol. 1 keeps things so chill that at any moment you are waiting for mellow freestyle to come milling in over the beat, #digitalfreedom shows the wide-range of samples that Jaravesic pulls from, and definitely hits a lot harder than any of his previous stuff, keeping in line with the current obsession with bass-heavy songs. Regardless, the crowd was ecstatic for the entirety of Gramatik's set, and by the look of the venue, most people came for the duo. It slowly filtered out toward the end, leaving roughly half of what it was for the headliner.

Slide show: Altitude Music Festival

MSTRKRFT held the coveted headlining spot for Altitude Music Festival. Following the talents of Zion I and Gramatik, both of whom could easily have headlined this show (and given Gramatik's crowd, probably should have), the Canada-based duo delivered a relatively lackluster set. The music was heavy, production was on point, and the sound flawless, but the energy just wasn't there. Perhaps it was the emptying venue, or maybe MSTRKRFT just wasn't feeling the altitude, but it didn't carry the hype that preceded.

We got the hard and heavy bass lines that seemed nonstop, and heard bits and blips from tracks like "Fist of God" and "Got Love to Kill," but the waning energy really took a toll on the crowd. The front line that swelled the gate looked as though they just got out of marathon sauna session, but the back of the group, which barely reached the soundboard at this point, stood in sway. It's hard to say what is about hip-hop and EDM, but the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Zion I was certainly the helping of jelly last night, adding a sweet live performance to a relatively knob-twisting heavy evening. AmpLive and Zumbi had incessant energy, moving the crowd with each lyrical impression, especially on the closing track "Coastin," which was given special dedication to "all the dreamers in the crowd." The most impressive part of the evening was how AmpLive's production was executed on the spot. He worked two pads and a mixer like a set of drums, playing by ear and memory and not missing a beat. Truly an impressive sight. GRiZ, who played the previous night at the Sonic Bloom pre-party, held the second spot on the line-up. Whereas his show seemed slightly out of place the night before (what with all the unified field theory, painting, fire dancing, etc), last night, it was just what Boulder needed to wake the fuck up.

Slide show: Altitude Music Festival

This new generation of producers seem to always remind the crowd that they are playing "all original music," when it's really just remixes. Not original. An original remix, maybe, but not original. A sample is not an instrument, it's a color on the palette used to create a masterpiece. It would basically be the equivalent of taking thirty magazines to create a collage and not crediting any of the original publications which provided the content. But we digress...

GRiZ really stepped up to the plate last night. "Where is the love," his take on a track that samples Bobby Blue Bands' "Ain't No Love," always seems to take the crowd by storm. What really stood out in his whole set was his remade "Gold Dust" tribute to Flux Pavilion's epic ballad from 2010. GRiZ's track might even be better than the original -- maybe it's just because it's new and not nearly as played out -- but it certainly takes the song to another level. Cheers to GRiZ, who gets the MVP for the night. Opening the festival was the Boulder trio Robotic Pirate Monkey. There is a lot of hype surrounding these guys, and they've just recently finished an East Coast whomp-romp that seemed to give them some great publicity. The funny part is, here is a group of locals who used to play Babe Night at The Goose Bar, and somehow have blown up into a reputable group. Not sure how you make the transition from Babe Night to Altitude Music Festival, but they've done it.

Slide show: Altitude Music Festival

The set went smoothly save for a couple minor clashes in the beat mixing, but the Weezy vocals and endless bass lines pulled it together. The closer for their set came in the form of a Dolly Parton/Pretty Lights/James Brown tribute which mashed up the trio's first hit remixed-single, "Jolene," and yes, it was fun.

Making the bold jump from Saturday concert to full fledged festival is not an easy task, but CU Program Council and Insomniac Events pulled it off. The great thing about the festival style, though, is that each and every artist comes out strong and plays a bangin' set, which is expected, rather than the normal line-up of warming up a crowd. You should be able to walk into a festival at any moment and instantly be blown away. Altitude Music Festival blew everyone away.


Personal Bias: Gramatik and GRiZ definitely played for the crowd last night -- and GRiZ -- watch out for that guy.

Random Detail: The venue's capacity is reportedly 4,000 people. By the time Gramatik was on, according to organizers, there were only a couple hundred tickets left.

By The Way: Balch Field House is a dry area of campus (no booze), yet all the artists were allowed to booze it up.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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