Most music festivals don't have a specific conceptual guiding principal behind them. But for Communikey 2014, the phrase "Take Time," which was featured in the well-designed schedule and map. As they explained it, the demands of the modern world have created a climate of artificial boredom, overtaxed reserves of emotional and physical energy and instant but meaningless gratification.
Communikey's organizers took that idea seriously, finding ways in even the smallest details to relish the taking of time. Below are some of the ways the festival did just that.
• The Program: A two-sided, colorful glossy that wasn't difficult to read or figure out while also being creative in its design included a mission statement and a helpful map.
• The Apex Movement Location: Sure, it's a parkour training center by day and it's on the eastern edge of town in some kind of industrial office park, but that meant plenty of parking and the ability to have bass-heavy music pumping until the early morning hours without annoying neighbors. It reminded us of an illegal rave in the '90s, without the illegal part and without an overtly druggy vibe. Only suggestion: relocate the portable toilets farther away from the door if possible.
• The Door People Were Cool: That makes a difference. Yes, it is a thankless job and some people make it a difficult job. But these people seemed to handle what could be a hassle of an event as smoothly as was reasonably possible.
• The Speaker System in Apex: It's rare even in a standard music venue for there to be essentially quadraphonic sound with plenty of head room for rich bass and even sub bass. For electronic dance music this just made it feel like you were fully immersed in the music. Still, it wasn't so loud you couldn't have at least a brief conversation with someone nearby. With the speakers set up in four parts of the room pointing toward the center, someone positioned them and dialed in the sound so nothing seemed to cancel out.
• Tasteful and Informed Choice of Artists: While Deadbeat, KiNK and Ben UFO aren't necessarily household names or stars of the mainstream EDM circuit they've all been featured on Boiler Room, which usually means you're doing something right.
• Extended Sets For Artists: With ninety minute sets on Friday night and two and a half hour sets on Saturday night each artist could stretch out with the music. Fortunately this did not translate into the same vibe, texture, rhythms and sounds for the duration. Sure, it was a sort of chill environment if you wanted it to be and the music accommodated that but it was also energetic enough to be something people could dance to as enthusiastically as they wanted to. The music evolved and progressed without obvious cues, which meant it was easier to take in on your terms.
• Rich Visuals: The 3D mapping and unique projection screens meant there was plenty going on visually as the music was flowing but in a more organic rather than fast and busy. It was dynamic and stimulating without being obtrusive.
• The Organization of the Space: Yes, there was a main dance floor where the speakers were focused, but you could hear the music well pretty much everywhere. Whether that was in the place near the front where you could get a drink, water or otherwise, or on one of the platform spaces to the side you could dance or just take in the sounds in a more quiet way.
• Glow Poi: A couple of guys were spinning, one with a more orange light like a flame the other a more multi-colored set. It added to the feel of a rave and they were remarkably careful in their spinning and even let a women stand in for a moment and show off her skills. Made for some other kind of more visceral visual stimulation and like an old rave feel in a modern context and very welcome. Were they official practitioners of poi for this event? Probably not, but that it was welcome made it better.
• Not Everyone Dressed the Same: There was no uniform. People dressed up, some not, some specifically to dance, others not and most in a way that didn't indicate any kind of subculture. The fact that there wasn't a dress code, explicit or implicit, made it a more welcoming environment than some dance clubs in Denver.
Bias: I've enjoyed the types of music and the diversity of the events on offer at Communikey.
Random Detail: Ran into Westword scribe Matt Miner at Apex on Saturday.
By the Way: East Boulder seems like the land that time forgot after 10 on a Saturday.
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.