Zeds Dead Discusses the Tenth Deadrocks and Denver Concerts | Westword

Zeds Dead Is Ringing in the Tenth Anniversary of Deadrocks

"It's funny, having two Canadians hosting a Fourth of July event," says one half of the EDM duo. "But it's awesome. We get all into it."
Zeds Dead has hosted Deadrocks for ten years.
Zeds Dead has hosted Deadrocks for ten years. SHUTTERFINGER
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For some Coloradans, the Fourth of July constitutes a traditional backyard barbecue and watching fireworks. But for others, it calls for raving their hearts out with Zeds Dead at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Civic Center Park or Mission Ballroom.

"It's funny, having two Canadians hosting a Fourth of July event," says Zach Rapp-Rovan, one half of the EDM duo with Dylan Mamid. "But it's awesome. We get all into it."
click to enlarge Zeds Dead's  Backyard Jamboree at Civic Center Park
The Backyard Jamboree began at Civic Center Park four years ago.

The indefatigable act has hosted its annual Deadrocks event on dates around Independence Day since 2014, and it's expanded beyond anything Mamid and Rapp-Rovan could have dreamed of. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of Deadrocks on July 2 and 3, followed by the fourth annual Deadbeats Backyard Jamboree at Civic Center Park during the day on July 4, which will be capped off by the fourth Deadrocks Hangover, an evening concert at Mission Ballroom.

The Jamboree is "a whole different vibe than the Red Rocks events," notes Rapp-Rovan. "We don't repeat songs over the three nights or however many shows we play, so the Jamboree is a whole different offering from us."

"It's an opportunity to let loose during the day and play into that vibe for the Fourth of July," adds Mamid. "And there's lots of other things that we're trying to incorporate with it, too."

Things like a dunk tank and the second-largest hot dog eating contest in North America. The dunk tank is "just an opportunity to humiliate the people we work with," jokes Mamid. "Our manager, our agent, our label manager, anybody on the team." This year, Mamid and Rapp-Rovan may even take their chances at getting dunked, if Rapp-Rovan finds the time between performing and doing live graffiti (he's an established graffiti writer) alongside fellow artists he's invited out for the affair.
click to enlarge Zeds Dead's  Backyard Jamboree at Civic Center Park
The Jamboree includes a hot dog eating contest.
The Jamboree was added to the annual Zeds Dead run when the duo saw an opportunity to do more with the Denver fan base. "The Red Rocks events just started selling out faster and faster," says Mamid, "so we were like, 'What's next?'"

The Deadrocks Hangover at Mission Ballroom — which Mamid says is one of his favorite Denver venues — is just the icing on the cake, offering one last chance to see the duo and hear even more music that hasn't been played in the prior three concerts. Thankfully, Zeds Dead, which formed in 2009, has plenty of material to pull from, and more to come: As we speak, Mamid and Rapp-Rovan are in a studio in Miami, where they are working on new music. "We love digging through records and digging for samples and just finding inspiration all across the music history," Rapp-Rovan says, adding that Zeds Dead sprang from the pair's shared love of hip-hop. "It started with us just showing each other our music, and then we'd collaborate. We make stuff together, but we also make things separately and then show it to one another and critique it."

Aside from new tunes, they're also adding new features to make their concerts more immersive and engaging, including specific videos that tie to certain songs playing on screens. Mamid says they've been tinkering with the concept since last year, and "we're going to be able to flesh it out even more for this year."

"We show visuals and psychedelic imagery and things to go along with the music," Rapp-Rovan explains. "More recently, we've started to make a lot more strides in a visual way by cutting things from all different sources and finding footage of some of the people we sample to be playing on the screen while we're performing. That's been a big step in our show; we've gotten more and more into that."
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For example, songs such as Zeds Dead's 2011 breakout track, "Coffee Break," incorporate classic music samples that add depth and nostalgia. During performances, the duo enhances these tracks with a variety of black-and-white visuals that evoke the original era of the sample. "These visuals just add to the vibe we're trying to create," Rapp-Rovan explains.

"It also shows people where certain things came from, too," Mamid adds. "It's almost a little history lesson snuck in there."

And Zeds Dead has a lot of history in Denver. When the two producers were just starting out nationally, they were already big in the Mile High City, which makes sense: Denver is known as the nation's bass capital, thanks to local dubstep promoter Sub.mission, which was founded by Black Box owner Nicole Cacciavillano and brought international DJs to the U.S. for the first time.

"I remember the first time we came to Denver, it was like the craziest show of that tour," Rapp-Roven recalls. "We had no idea that we had this following there. It was at Cervantes', and the crowd just knew so many songs and were singing along."

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Deadrocks has its tenth anniversary this year.
That's what made the area the perfect spot for Zeds Dead's biggest run of the year: Denver fans welcomed the duo with open arms from the start. "It was just the love that they showed us. It was in the response and the reception that we got and continue to get every time there," Mamid says. "It fueled us to want to do this. They give us a lot, and we want to give it back to them.

"It became apparent to us really quickly that we had a crazy following in Denver, especially," he adds, recalling shows at such venues as the Ogden and Dillon Amphitheater. "It just kept growing and growing. We were like, 'Shit, we can take this to the Rocks.' And we tried it out and it worked, and now here we are, ten years later."

As the tenth Deadrocks approaches, Rapp-Rovan notes that the event is "something we're thinking about all year and putting things aside for. We make our stuff specifically for these events, and we'll be showing stuff nobody's heard before."

Most of all, it means Rapp-Rovan and Mamid get to return to their favorite venue: Red Rocks.

"Looking over the rocks, it is a spiritual experience," Rapp-Roven muses. "It's awe-inspiring."

"Every year we come back to Red Rocks, it's like a shock. Getting out to the venue and looking at it, being like, 'I can't believe that all these people are actually going to fill this up for us,'" Mamid concludes. "Not just one night, but two nights now. And then all the other shows, too. It blows my mind every single year."

Deadrocks, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, and 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison; Deadbeats Backyard Jamboree, 2 p.m. Thursday, July 4, Civic Center Park; Deadrocks Hangover, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 4, Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street. The Red Rocks and Mission shows are sold out, but tickets to the Jamboree are still available via AXS.
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