It's always been my belief that concerts are unique experienced affected by an endless number of variables - who you're with, who you may meet, how things compare to what you know, what you may discover, etc. Because of that, no two concerts can ever really be alike, and when it comes to festivals, that rings even more true. The SnowBall Music Festival, for instance, had up to four bands playing simultaneously during festival hours over three days, and that meant choices had to be made - one could see bits and pieces of everything, focus on what they like, stay in a particular area, or just go with the flow. For me, I went into the weekend with a specific plan of action, but when the festival finally came, I went where my heart told me and ended up with a weekend I'll always remember.
Since I live in Denver, Friday started early, as I piled into my good friend Dylan Le Disko's car and headed westward. Concerts are always best when experienced with other people, so I got the buddy system going right away. Although I had planned on getting to the festival right as it began, after reaching Avon, checking into the hotel, and meeting the rest of my group, it didn't quite work out that way. It was no worry though, I still managed to catch most of Dubskin's set on the Main Stage, getting the weekend started with some laid back reggae to help counter the frigid Friday temperatures. The reggae grooves they had going had the early crowd in a good mood - nobody seemed to mind the below freezing temperatures or the light snowfall as people warmed up to the good vibes.
From there I made my way over to the Groove Tent to catch Helicopter Showdown. I wasn't very familiar with them, but I had some friends to meet over there and went to check them out. Stepping into the groove tent after watching Dubskin was like slamming an energy drink - going from smooth reggae to glitched out dubstep. Helicopter Showdown had complete command of the Groove Tent crowd, shaking the cold out of everyone's bones with earth shattering bass as the crowd convulsed like they were in a dance scene of a slow motion snowboard movie. I wanted to keep going, but there was no way I'd make the rest of the night without some food and drink, so I stepped away from the festival for about an hour.
I returned just in time to check out one of my favorite local Denver bands, Flashlights. Despite the continuously dipping temperatures, Flashlights delivered a set that was on fire. They began with a few favorites from their Hidden Behind Trees EP before unleashing some of their more recent So Close To Midnight material, delivering a late-night worthy electro-pop dance party in the mid-afternoon. As their set ended, I didn't even have to look at my schedule to know what to check out next.
I didn't have to check my schedule because I turned around and saw what looked like a massive party happening at the Main Stage, so that's where I went next. There was a massive crowd gathered, looking like they were having the time of their lives as Major Lazer was on stage. Although Major Lazer is the duo of Diplo and Switch, it was just Diplo for this performance, but Diplo brought along a crew of two hype men and two dancers that really helped create a party atmosphere. As Major Lazer's music blared through the speakers and flashing lights dominated the background, the people on stage put on a dynamic show that even involved a few lucky audience members.
As Major Lazer's set ended, so did the sunlight, and Friday's temperatures plummeted even further. I figured the best remedy for the cold air would be the sunny indie-electronic sounds of Bag Raiders. There were so many people packed into the Groove Tent to see this Australian band that body temperatures made the area a somewhat comfortable environment. The duo of Chris Stracey and Jack Glass performed songs off of their self-titled album to a crowd that was singing and dancing along, hanging onto every frigid movement the dynamic pair made on stage. Bag Raider's music plus crowd energy definitely made their set first day standout for me.
|Wolf + Lamb vs. Soul Clap|
From there I wandered around a bit, waiting to see the set from Wolf + Lamb vs. Soul Clap. I caught a glimpse of what was going on at other stages, but it wasn't until this set began at the Heat Hut that I stayed put. As a huge fan of house music, I couldn't wait to see what these DJs would throw down, and the for working together did not at all disappoint, taking turns throwing down groovy house and exotic beats that kept the vibes high throughout the set. Each DJ took turns adding a song to the mix, and the four worked in perfect sync...just like the matching custom floral hats they were rocking. When their set ended my day felt complete, and although Rusko's set was in full swing behind me, I was ready to call it a day.
One thing about festivals is the parties continue over the course of the whole weekend - not just when the festival artists are on stage. So come Saturday, I wasn't quite ready to head back through the festival gates until the early afternoon. I started the second day of the festival checking out the Ball Room, where locals Sauna were rocking the stage. Although the band is young, they have a retro throwback sound that would make one think they are from a different era. Despite playing an earlier set, they engaged the early crowd with plenty of enthusiasm and energy - the perfect way to start the second round of SnowBall.
|boyhollow & option4|
I cut across to the Heat Hut next to catch a couple of my favorite local Denver DJs, the resident pair from Lipgloss, boyhollow and option4. The duo brought their weekly indie dance party sound to the heart of the mountains. To get things started, option4 unleashed a steady stream of house grooves, kicking things off with positive vibes. He laid down a set of house favorites and even dropped his forthcoming single, "Ride On", from his upcoming EP. boyhollow followed up, playing a groovy house mix that included a bit of disco, funk and soul. boyhollow usually keeps things eclectic, so I liked when he dropped a bit of The Rolling Stones into his mix.
|The Head and The Heart|
Once again I had to take a short food and drink break, and I returned in time to catch The Head and The Heart. The great thing about SnowBall is that the festival prides itself in offering a diverse musical lineup, so festival goers can experience a variety of music from different genres suitable for a number of tastes. The Head and The Heart's indie-folk performance was a good venture into musical diversity, offering the crowd a superb performance that made the second day of the festival all the more cozy.
I headed to the Heat Hut next to catch a local Denver fixture that had somehow alluded me until this festival, Pictureplane. I've been a fan of Pictureplane's somewhat darkwave indie-electronic style for a while, but I'd somehow missed a few opportunities to seem him live. He was holding down the Heat Hut to a very receptive crowd, performing many of my favorites from his album Thee Physical. After seeing the presence he had on stage, I know I won't make the mistake of missing out on future opportunities to seem him in the near future - he is very good.
I then made my way back to the Ball Room to catch the chillwave group Small Black. I'd been listening to their album New Chain for a while, so it was great to get the opportunity to see them live. I was pretty surprised to see how they performed their music with live instruments, because their album sounds as if it may be done otherwise. Their performance brought about an incredible energy to what is inherently a laid back sound - a pleasant surprise and a joy to watch.
I stuck around in the Ball Room to see another local Denver favorite of mine, Gauntlet Hair. This indie rock band brought their experimental and noise heavy sound with the amount of fervor I've come to expect, delivering a steady supply of favorites from their self-titled debut album. The past times I've seen them they played as a three-piece, but on this night it was back to their original two-piece guitar and drums configuration - it was cool to see them that way and the sound was still superb.
Afterwards, I had to a bit of running around, so I didn't really get to focus on another set until it was time for the headliner - Snoop Dogg. After listening to Snoop Dogg for many years, it was almost a surreal experience to see him come out onto the SnowBall stage. He came out with the presence and swagger one would expect from an artist as accomplished and experienced as he is, and he took absolute control of at attending SnowBall crowd. Not only did he perform some of hits both new and old, but he laid down raps over beats and songs from other artists as well, delivering an encompassing rap and hip-hop experience. It was definitely the best way to end Saturday night.
For reasons similar to what ended up happening Saturday morning, coupled with the scramble to check out of my hotel room and pack all my belongings away, Sunday's festival experience did not begin until the mid-afternoon with a set from another local Denver favorite of mine, ManCub. ManCub's electro noise-pop sound was like a stiff cup of coffee, snapping me out of any lull and getting me into the dancing mood. ManCub performed a handful of old favorites, but what impressed me the most were songs off the upcoming EP, especially the song "Science". The fusion of disco, indie and electro that ManCub has going on is undeniably good.
I cut over from the Ball Room to the Heat Hut to catch electro and witch house DJ and producer Gosteffects. If ManCub was a stiff cup of coffee, Gosteffects was a shot of espresso. It may have been the afternoon, but Gosteffects laid down a heavy electro set that had the crowd jumping and dancing like the Heat Hut was a late night club. Everytime a song would reach a drop, Gosteffect's hair banged to the beat and the crowd would flail along to follow suit. Even though it was still pretty cold outside, Gosteffects worked the crowd into a sweat.
|Gardens & Villa|
From there I went back to the ballroom to catch one of my favorite indie bands of late, Gardens & Villa. This California band creates a sound that is a definite nod to west coast living, all the while carefully balancing catchy songs with a feeling that just plain rocks. They performed all the songs I love from their self-titled album, and they did it in impressive style. Their songs include many intricacies, but Gardens & Villa performs everything live - from bass, guitar, drums and synth down to the pan flute - I highly recommend seeing this band.
|Unknown Mortal Orchestra|
I stayed put in the Ball Room, because another of my favorite indie rock bands would take the stage next. Portland based Unknown Mortal Orchestra was the next band to perform, and they provided a stellar performance that balanced catchy indie-pop with high energy rock in a style that really stands out on its own. Unknown Mortal Orchestra had the crowd singing along to their songs, but also rocking out whenever lead singer and guitarist Reuban Nielson shredded out a solo. It really showed how Unknown Mortal Orchestra's music is deceptively simple - the songs may be catchy but are steeped in complexity.
As I mentioned before, I am a fan of house music, so I had to make my way back to the Heat Hut to catch Plastic Plates. Sunday's afternoon temperatures were a bit milder, and it caused a lot of the snow on the ground to melt. This DJ and producer was laying down a steady mix of sun drenched house, getting the Heat Hut crowd to groove all across the now muddy dance floor without any cares. He kept the positive vibes going, as smiles were fixed on everyone's faces throughout his set.
I stuck around for one more set before I felt that my festival appetite was completely filled - the set from young DJ and producer DallasK. DallasK laid down a mix that leaned toward a more progressive electro house style, but his ability to stream together songs both old and new into remixes, edits and mash-ups made the Heat Hut crowd continue their dancing frenzy. During his set, the Heat Hut was definitely the place to be to get the dance club feel.
My festival experience may have ended there, but for me, I was completely satisfied. Ideally, I would have been able to see every act, and there were certainly a few bands and artists I planned on seeing that I happened to miss. The good news is, the only reason I missed anything was because I was too busy having fun being at a different part of the festival. As long as you're having fun, there really isn't any wrong way to do SnowBall. There are enough great acts to see and so many good people to meet, that as long as you are somewhere doing something within the festival gates, you are doing it right. I really have no regrets from this year's festival, and I already can't wait for SnowBall to return next year.
See more pictures from the festival on Facebook. There is an album for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. Like the Concerted Effort page to stay updated on other local Colorado concerts.