Concert Reviews

Review: Caffeine Music & Arts Festival at 1STBANK Center, 3/31/12


Let's not kid ourselves here: Caffeine Music Festival is a rave of epic proportions. From the first candy-clad fan entering the door at 7 p.m., to the last man standing on the floor of the laser-scaped 1STBANK Center, Caffeine blew up like an explosion of electronic music, raining down bass and treble on the heads of ravers from all over the country. Headlining deejays Micro and Cazzette threw down sets on the main stage, The Caffeine Garden, and helped push a crowd that comes from all walks of life into the wee hours of the first day of April.

Micro followed Icey at the Caffeine Garden stage, where a majority of the crowd remained for the evening. Given that there were six stages and one interactive DJ setup in the multi-use venue, it was rather difficult navigating the set times, negotiating the routes, and generally finding a place that didn't have conflicting beats being pumped in to both your ears. You were either in the main pit, walking the concourse, or stuck in limbo between stages, but regardless of your location, the music was on full-blast and was any ravers dream mash-up of local and national acts.

Michael Marsicano, known globally as Micro, let his set in the Caffeine Garden jump between genres nicely, getting the ball rolling nicely with a remix of Nero's "Promises" that, although it didn't quite carry the attractive sound of the original, still respectfully played within the boundaries of a quantifiable remix. It's sometimes difficult to hear a song you love remixed, because if you're a fan of the original, then it's a challenge for any artist to do that song justice. Micro did, in fact, do a great job of mixing and distorting at appropriate times, especially on the "Seek and Destroy" track borrowed from Bassnectar that rode the energy coming off the previous track.

While Micro was holding the attention of mass, Megalodon was grinding through his dubstep set at the Sunflower Stage located in the basketball gym that sits on the east side of the event center. Surprisingly, the Sunflower Stage's crowd never reached its capacity, a rarity among events that brag so many local dubstep DJs on its bill, but it was still a raging party every time you dead-ended into the room. Broken Note, DJ Fury and Ishe all primed the crowds nicely with original bass and dnb tracks, but the built-in crowd started to dwindle just as Megalodon was finishing up. It could've been because Cazzette was about to take the main stage, and since fellow bill-toppers Headhunterz couldn't make it due to illness, people were anxious to see how Triads would handle the delicate situation.

Well, Cazzette pleased and delivered. With ease, no less. It seemed he was having some errors with the mixer because he called his manager over to check on it. As it turns out, the volume on one of the tracks seemed to be lacking that, how you say, je ne sais quoi? Whatever it was you were looking for from Cazzette, it was found, and staunchly supported by modern dance fans who know how, and when, to get down. Some highlights in the set, and though there were many, included his take on Avicii's near-autotune sounding version of the Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams," which went a little bit harder at some parts, but kept its character in the softer drops. The little errors were probably not noticeable, but a keen ear could sense some frustration emitting from the booth.

The surrounding stages at the 1STBANK Center offered little competition to the Caffeine Garden, and Sunflower Stages. Not that the talent wasn't there, but a lot of the DJs were playing club-banger after club-banger like they were headlining Ibiza, and it had a lot of people prematurely blowing their proverbial load. Some notable efforts were given by Rudeboi and 2 slikk at the Magnolia Stage, whose sounds were pulling people in from the concourse left and right. Cognition and T-Rav got a grasp on the Lily Stage, which was strangely set-up on the second floor in the Music Hall of Fame lounge. Their crowd wasn't packed in, but their set was solid and noteworthy, with clean transitions between the duo of deejays.

One welcome portion of the event was the hands-on setup provided by the Colorado DJ Academy. Granted, the flyer said "So you want to be a DJ?" which seems a tad bit offensive to artists who train and practice on vinyl, transition with technology, yet still know their roots, and thus progress. Maybe not. Either way, it offered attendees the chance to play on some cool toys, mix and cut music, and surprisingly, sounded better than some of the other stages because, A) The volume wasn't overbearing, and B) It's impossible to train-wreck when you have a professional looking over your shoulder offering hints and tips. It had people playing for the majority of the event, and though it's tough to cosign a school dedicated to just deejaying, it seemed to keep people excited and maybe even planted the seed for the next big thing.

Caffeine seemed to please a lot of people this year. Sure, it's a rave, so what? Get over it. There is a scene and a market for people who like this kind of music, and though it's the target of scrutiny because of the implications and reputation it had for being "underground" at some point, people gripe about what it is and what it's turned into.

Security is on hand to provide safety and a police presence forces responsible partying. And medics provide the peace of mind that some overprotective parents need. The fact is, this rave is a success, and whether or not you like the music, it's always going to be a success because it's just damn fun.


Personal Bias: JES was amazing on the main stage. Her voice, though crisp and flawless while she sang, was incredibly raspy while she talked, which had me wondering if she was lip synching all her tracks. Still, she did a great job, and garnered a large gathering at her autograph signing after her set.

By The Way: I give all the DJs in the world the power and permission to punch any photographer you feel is being more of a fan than a professional. Myself included, if it comes down to it.

Random Detail: There were a ton of people from Colorado Springs -- roughly 50 percent, based on those with which I spoke.

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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester

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