“Bassnectar Chocolate! Bass Center 2016! Golden Tickets! A world of imagination!”
This was the tweet posted by Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, that ignited a buzz among Bassheads across the country on December 7, 2015. Prior to this announcement, EDM fans were concerned that this year's incarnation of the DJ/producer's popular show might be inhibited by sound ordinances at its previous location of Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Would the bass be the same? Instead of compromising his desired decibels, Bassnectar moved the concert to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, taking over the space both Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30.
Bassnectar publicized the event as the ultimate playground for his fans: two days of music and camping, with additional entertainment offerings in yoga, art installations, parades, a silent disco and sponsored after-parties at venues in Denver. The lineup was billed by Ashton himself as the most “intense ever assembled," including Wu-Tang Clan, Thriftworks, AlunaGeorge, Porter Robinson, Flying Lotus and Lupe Fiasco. It promised to be, as Ashton described on social media, “an authentic chance to cast a magical spell.”
Around four on Friday afternoon, fans trickled in from the parking lots and campgrounds, located behind the arena and named Narnia and the Shire, to catch performances from artists. Attendees seemed to pull out all the stops with their wardrobes. From colorful scarves, capes depicting a slice of pizza, various state flags, butterfly wings of all shapes and sizes, and tons and tons of glitter – there seemed to be nothing missing. In the back of the venue, attendees performed hula-hoop and juggling acts and even acro-yoga, while artists performed on stage. Colorful, homemade flags and totem poles waved proudly above fans' heads, serving as landmarks as well as expressing their love of Bassnectar and Bass Center as a whole. The crowd generated a truly "come one, come all" scene.
While Bassnectar himself attracts a huge crowd, Molly Leighton, a fan from Los Angeles, noted that the community among attendees is also a draw — the mutual respect among fans and non-fans alike. “You can tell that even those who aren’t devoted Bassheads still carry a deep appreciation for Ashton and everything that he does,” Leighton explained. “The devotion of his fans, and the respect coming from non-fans, is a testament to the true professional nature of his work and lasting impact he will have on the electronic scene.”
Colorado has long been a locus of fandom for Bassnectar, and Denver proved to be a great central location for attendees, attracting fans from all over the U.S. to meet in the middle to boogie down in good company. “Finally arriving here feels as momentous as it would be for a Muslim to make it to Mecca,” Nathan Critser said after driving in from Fresno.
For Leighton, the trip is a kind of pilgrimage. “My best friends and I come to Colorado every year to see Lorin play,” she said. “These are some of the most devoted Bassheads in the country, and you can sense that acknowledgement in the crowd.”
During his final set on Saturday night, Ashton asked from the stage if the thousands assembled had made at least one new friend over the course of the weekend — and he was met with cheers of enthusiasm. Ashton also listed random acts of kindness as a crucial element of the Bass Center survival guide, encouraging the community members to keep everyone in good spirits and radiate positivity. It seemed that a lot of Bass Center attendees cherished the authentic interaction that Bassnectar encourages among his fan base, agreeing that the artist is less focused on hype and more on creating an all-immersive experience. One Colorado fan summed it up this way: “Bassnectar isn’t Lorin; Bassnectar is me and you. He utilizes his platform to recognize what life is about – dynamics.”
Helping to facilitate the weekend’s festivities were Bass Ambassadors, an on-the-ground extension of Ashton's goals for goodwill among his fans. On his website, Ashton explains that because he has always had a desire to get behind the scenes of anything that fascinates him, he wanted to provide an opportunity to enthusiastic fans to see what goes on firsthand and help promote a positive energy throughout the crowd. Ambassadors could be recognized by bright white T-shirts marked with Ashton’s signature bass-drop symbol, roaming the arena equipped with squirt bottles to help cool off attendees, as well as free earplugs and bottles of water. These Ambassadors also helped facilitate the two donation drives occurring over the weekend, which contributed school supplies to the Denver Public Schools Foundation and recycled camping gear for Groundwork Denver’s Youth Employment and Development program.
While Bass Center is the biggest event Ashton has assembled thus far — topping even his appearance at Madison Square Garden — attendees felt that the guiding force of Bassnectar himself infiltrated all aspects of the event. “Bassnectar is a symbol of total self-expression, openness, individuality and love,” Lizzie Pereira, a fan from Los Angeles, said. “The vibrant community that surrounds him is filled with change-makers, doers, dreamers and lovers. Bassnectar takes me to a place far beyond the limitations of space and time.”
Leighton believes that Bassnectar and the culture he encourages around his music is ushering in a new age of conscious revolution by bringing light to deeply intense and complicated subjects. “I’m an atheist, but Lorin is my own personal Jesus,” Leighton said. “He is ageless, timeless, sexless and genderless — a mystical being who is not human but can understand and express all possible human emotions and experiences.”
While this may be hyperbole, the feeling seems to be mutual between Bassnectar and his fans. Bass Center closed as it began — with a social-media post by Ashton: “THANK YOU!! Bass Center 2016 blew our minds, and now we are all a little closer to understanding how deep the rabbit hole goes. WE LOVE YOU!”
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.