Music Festivals

Why Cloak & Dagger Is More Than Just Another EDM Festival

Going back to the days of early raves in the '80s or even as far back as “happenings” in San Francisco, strong and creative visuals have been an important component of the concert experience. Every EDM show worth attending has rich, unusual and creative light shows and projections. So it came as no surprise that, in the main amphitheater of City Hall for Cloak & Dagger 201, the show was a feast for the ears and eyes.

What did come as a surprise was that it wasn't the typical rowdy scene in the late hours at 11th and Broadway. It wasn't an EDM show at Cloak & Dagger, yet it was a dance show, and the crowd somehow seemed to be a strange combination of relaxed and enthusiastic as Four Tet performed an extended set.

Respected both by fans of electronic dance music and people with an appreciation for Kieran Hebden's brilliant fusion of the experimental and the accessible, Four Tet didn't disappoint. In recent years, the project has delved deep into house and techno without ever sounding like a throwback.

Maybe it was the incredible bass modulation alongside bright, melodies and masterful sequencing of the set with passages of high energy and rhythmic intensity as well as calm stretches. But the ever-changing and evolving visuals synced up perfectly with the music, especially toward the end, when Hebden performed “Morning” from his latest record, Morning/Evening. Sure, it was Hebden up there at his machines and mixing table, not moving dramatically, but the entrancing flow of images and music made it impossible to ignore or really tune out even if you wanted to. It was as though the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind had landed and put on a proper light show with their own sound system, but toned it down for human ears.

What follows are several images from the latter half of the set to give you an idea of the array of imagery that accompanied the performance. Hopefully they give the sense of what it was like, being around people connecting with the music and the dynamic wash of lights and the massive — but never harsh — sound that permeated the room like a divine presence. 

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.