The weather for the second night of Snowball was very similar to the first night of the fest, hosting the likes of Paper Diamond, Lotus, Savoy and the bass-master himself, Bassnectar. But again, freezing temperatures or a little bit of snow falling toward the end of the show dampen the crowd. Twin Shadow was finishing its set as I walked into the festival, this time arriving almost on time, but still not at the opening of the gates when the security opened up shop.
The sound check for Big Gigantic had people fleeing the surrounding tents to catch the opening track from the Boulder locals. "Wide Awake," the title track from the act's latest effort, opened the set, which turned the ice skating rink of a field, into a chilled frenzy of swaying bodies accidentally moonwalking on the slick surface.
Dominic Lalli threw props to Ben Samples when he dropped the "Black and Yellow," remix, but didn't do the same for Aloe Blacc when "I need a dolla" came blasting out of the speakers. The drummer, Jeremy Salken, made few mistakes throughout the set, and for any Big Gigantic fan, the missteps were obvious.
When BG transitioned into "Step Up," a song with a strong keyboard laid over a deep and dirty, electronic bass line, the mid-day crowd who was aware of the onslaught of beats that BG was about the deliver, the entire field blew up. Regardless of the slick conditions, people were jumping and two-stepping to the sound. After passing through Boulder and Denver just a few weeks ago, high expectations were firmly in place -- and subsequently surpassed.
At the close of Big Gigantic, the field cleared momentarily, but only until the strains of Local Natives hit the air, and loyal fans filled in blank spots.
The labyrinth of puddles required to earn your spot up front quickly froze as the sun dropped below the horizon. Local Natives checked each instrument before the set began, a sign that either preparation makes the show, or skill does. In the case of Local Natives, it was skill.
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Paper Diamond -- or Alex B. of Pnuma Trio as some diehard fans know him -- held it down in the Groove Tent. Bodies spilled out of the vinyl walls along with the exhaust from each one crawling slowly up to the sky, mixing with the synthetic smoke being pumped out at the stage.
The crowd for Lotus was building as people danced out of the surrounding tents and booths to catch a glimpse of the psychedelic-progressive rockers. At the end of the third song, guitarist and singer Mike Rempel rolled out a cover of the Talking Heads' "Warning Signs," which, as good of a cover it was, didn't keep me enthralled. With Paper Diamond mixing a few hundred yards away, I ventured back towards the Groove Tent to check it out.
Alex B. played a real similar set to the Snowball Kick-Off Party at the Bluebird Theater last week. Again, merely equipped with an iMac and an iPad, Alex B. played "Steady Swinging," an anthemic beat comparable to EMF's "Unbelievable," in tone and texture.
The crazy thing, still, is that music production has come so far. Alex B. has capitalized on this by implementing the least amount of mixing tools possible, while still producing the sounds that sells his name and backs his reputation as one of the go-to producers in and around Colorado.Paper Diamond finished up on time, actually with moments to spare, and the Groove Tent emptied out, except for the Classixx fans trailing behind and hugging the front barricade.
Lotus took the main stage at 6:45 p.m. with a few minor audio-tech problems that had each member standing in position awaiting the go-ahead. When was the last time you listened to Lotus? It has been awhile for myself, but the live performance at Snowball on the main stage set the precedent for what to expect from the band.
I was able to sneak over to Savoy in the Groove Tent for a little bit, but only long enough to snap a couple photos and vibe on the side stage. Again, the Groove Tent was sweating and dripping all over everyone, but for some reason it looked and felt a lot more packed than the previous night when Diplo came out. This is a testament to the impact Savoy is making on the music industry, or the fact that they are technically "local" and have a huge following.
Unfortunately, I had to take off from Savoy to catch the main headliner, Bassnectar. A temple-like structure sat symmetrical on the stage over the DJ table. Bassnectar started the night off with a huge thanks (of course) and a proclamation that the Snowball track set will be similar to the recent 1st Bass Center exposition he recently composed.
The expansive fields that face the main stage were filling up...quickly. Show me one person that doesn't want to park as close as possible, and I will show you a person who shouldn't be driving anyway.
Bassnectar -- aka Lorin Ashton -- does not know how to get behind the curve. Aside from producing live on stage at several shows on too many stops, he continues to reach for that new sound and that new audience. Saturday night's audience was treated to a special set by Ashton who opened his set with a steady, deep bass chord that shook the front row off the barricade. With a delightfully dubbed-out remix of the new hit from Ellie Goulding, "Lights," and a few tweaks and u-turns of sound later, we ended up stepping to a dirty mix of his signature "Bass Head," which vibrated guts from the front to the back.
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Sunday night we get the pleasure of seeing Eskmo, Eoto, Air Dubai and headliners, The Flaming Lips.
Critic's Notebook: Personal Bias: Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken are a killer combo of noise. Why Big Gigantic got such an early spot is beyond me, but they proved they can bring a huge crowd. By The Way: Bassnectar's videos displayed some serious propaganda ranging from Palin images to old war footage. He also played a dark, stop-action video that would have made "Schism" era Tool proud. Random Detail: Wear boots.