FESTY RECAP: SnowBall 2012

Welcome Joseph Cody Smith to the LMB ranks! You may known him from his usual blogging efforts at Festiland on Tumblr, but he’ll be contributing a ton more to LMB in the future! –Editor

Friday, March 2nd (DAY 1)

And so it begins. A sea of spirit hoods and vintage powder suits moved excitedly through the fresh snow as the sounds and lights of the second annual Snowball Music Festival overran the small resort town of Avon Colorado a few Fridays back…

The day started slowly, college students and working stiffs alike arriving intermittently throughout the afternoon, gradually filling the venue with the bright colors of steezy snow gear and clever costumes. I arrived slightly later than I had hoped I would, but managed to make it to the Groove Tent in time to catch Gramatik, a producer on the Pretty Lights Music label with a unique hip hop/ dubstep/ electro blend. The set was a heavy start to the weekend and it gave me an opportunity to stretch my dancing muscles, as I knew I would need them loose for the next few days. I kept the groove going for Marty Party who was up next with his signature west coast dubstep. He served up some of the heaviest drops of the day with his unreleased track “No Names” as well as a heavy remix of “Hard in the Paint” that got the crowd into a frenzy.

I left the Groove Tent feeling pumped and went to check out Major Lazer on the main stage. In the past, I have thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration between producers Diplo and Switch which has made waves in the music industry with epic cross-genre collaborations and one of a kind visual effects and music videos. Their performance was as good as I remember but their poorly EQ’d hype man and his uninterrupted shouting got me thinking it was a good time to seek out something new.

I headed into the Ball Room tent near the main stage and was pleased to find local up-and-comers Tatanka rocking some tasty reggae electro grooves. It was cool to hear the signature dubstep ‘wobble’ sound coming from a synthesizer pedal combo and the crunchy guitar riffs gave the performance a soul that a standard electro performance just can’t capture. Tatanka left me craving more new synthesized melodies so after a brief detour through the vendor tents to check out some really cool laser activated shirts, I arrived at Bag Raiders and was happily rewarded. Through an intricate mix of synthesizers, sampling equipment, drum pads, drums, and singing, this Australian duo put on my favorite show of the day and I’m sure I am not alone. Their broken beats and electro goodness gave me raging goose bumps as I stood mesmerized by their huge stage presence. Even the older security guard standing next to me couldn’t help but say, “Damn these guys are crazy.”

I left during the last long to meet up with some of my friends at Big Boi on the main stage but I quickly left to grab a spot for a personal favorite of mine, Mimosa. My expectations were high, however, I was a little let down when the Groove tent become packed beyond capacity long before the set began. After some shifty crowd navigation, I managed to find a semi comfortable spot and mentally prepared to get bass-ed in the face. I was momentarily disappointed when Mimosa began his set slow with some low end lines that could have put a crowd to sleep but was thankfully interrupted by Mimosa on the microphone saying, “I can’t believe you all are actually dancing to this shit.” After a brief sigh of relief, Mimosa threw down a massive drop and the tent erupted into whomp whomp chaos.

After putting up with the rowdiest crowd I’d ever seen, I left the Groove tent and headed over to the Ball Room tent for Deer Tick. It was a bit of a rough transition moving from Mimosa’s heavy in-your-face dubstep to the alternative country rock stylings of Deer Tick, but I reminded myself that that’s what festival life is all about and brushed it off. The tent was full of energy and after a few songs including a rousing rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ‘Pride and Joy’, I put my bass face back on and went off to wrap up the evening at the Main Stage with the British dubstep pioneer known as Rusko. It’s hard for me to describe his set accurately but to put it in the words of Rusko himself, it was “Snow-joke”. Killer visual effects and filthy dubstep drops intermittently interrupted by a muddled British accent finished the evening off with a bang. As the venue emptied, I could tell that Day 2 was going to have a lot of high expectations to live up to.

Saturday, March 3rd (DAY 2)

After a retrieving a couple of Tylenol and a pair of super dark sunglasses, I headed out into the bright Colorado sun ready to rock day two of Snowball. Technical problems had the Groove Tent delayed 45 minutes so I was surprised to catch electronic up-and-comer Pierce Fulton’s set in full force. It first seemed that Pierce was some kind of Zedd/Porter Robinson hybrid, but as his unique and eclectic style emerged, I could tell that he would be an artist to watch in the upcoming year. After Pierce closed things out, I headed to the Ball Room tent to see Boulder locals Cherub. I was impressed to see this young electro pop duo breathe new life into the 80s avant-garde electro-pop sound and with style to boot. After a few songs I ran by the main stage just long enough to hear an insane fiddle solo from progressive bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles and quickly made my way back to the Groove tent to get down and dirty with Figure, a small-town producer with a monstrous sound and a reputation for insane live shows. You may have seen his tracks in the top 10 on Beatport but computer speakers do no justice to his seemingly chaotic but highly nuanced music. Super complex beat patterns and ever changing tempos in songs like ‘Dominate’ had me thinking the whole tent was coming down.

After Figure came the best performance of the day with Break Science, an electronic duo featuring drummer Adam Deitch, formerly of Pretty Lights, Lettuce, and Soulive. This particular performance also featured rapper Chali 2na from Jurassic 5 rapping which made the whole performance. I am a huge fan of both J5 and Break Science so between Adam ‘s insane drumming, Borham’s fat bass lines, and Mr. 2na’s unstoppable flow, I was in hip-hop-get-down heaven. After a brief stop at the hotel to grab an extra layer (it was getting fairly chilly by this point) I was ready for moombahton master Dillon Francis. His set popped off from the very start as he worked the tent into a booty shaking frenzy with a rendition of the classic Champs tune ‘Tequila’ followed by a drop into Doctor P’s remix of “Love Goes Down.”

Next up on the main stage were the Kooks whose album I had recently fallen in love with. The crowd was a bit smaller than I had expected but with their incredibly catchy Brit Pop sound, this band got everyone singing along, even if they don’t know the words. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the last few songs but I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for their next Colorado set. The evening began to wrap up with sets from Brooklyn rockers TV on the Radio and Swedish electronic duo Dada Life. I managed to catch glimpses of both but was really blown away by what was coming from the Ballroom Tent. Kinetix, a pop punk/ funk fusion band out of Denver, has seen some moderate success when their most recent release, ‘Let Me In’, reached #47 on the iTunes rock charts, but after witnessing the raw energy and undeniable fun of their live show, I know this band is on its way to the top. Elements of scat, rap, and harmonized melodies combine with the crunchy bass grooves of their incredibly talented bassist Josh Fairman creating a Sublime-esque sound with strong funk roots. If you like live music, letting loose, and having fun then CHECK THESE GUYS OUT. Seriously.

The night ended again on a high note with an out-of-this world performance by Ghostland Observatory and their cosmic laser light show. Then came the effortless flow of the one and only Snoop Dogg which was much more epic than I expected. As the evening came to close it became more and more clear that this year’s Snowball music festival may have had some great headliners billed, but this festival was more about the local scene and putting the small Colorado artists on the map. Suddenly filled with home state pride, I grabbed a nightcap at the hotel bar and couldn’t help but smile, anticipating what another full day of music could bring.

Sunday, March 4th (DAY 3)

I doubled up on the Tylenol for day three of the Snowball music festival and walked comfortably into the venue looking forward to another crazy day in Avon. Sunday was much nicer that the previous two days with festi-goers sporting long sleeve tees and vests instead of winter jackets and snowsuits.

I started the day heavy with some fast paced San Jose dubstep from Nit Grit and a beat driven hip hop set from east coasters Two Fresh. Both sets were impressive but seemed weak in comparison to the next performer, Minnesota. With melodic synth lines and the heavy, hectic sound that is transforming dubstep culture, Minnesota made the crowd forget their head aches and muscle pains and jump around like it was day 1all over again. Towards the end of the set, I checked twitter on my phone and discovered that the ‘Secret Guest’ scheduled to take the main stage was about to play. I ran off excited to catch another heavy set from local favorites Paper Diamond or Big Gigantic, however I was instead greeted by the cheery bluegrass rhythms of Leftover Salmon. The surprise set had been just announced via the band’s facebook page and apparently served to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of founding member and banjo player Mark Vann. The set was cheerful and upbeat stirring the dubstepping crowd into full-fledged snowy hoedown, or dare I say, a snowdown.

I was enjoying the cheery bluegrass tunes but left in a hurry to my most anticipated act of the festival, Boombox. Boombox is known for improvising their set lists based on the response of the crowd and getting funky electronic influenced beats to merge seamlessly with the jam band/rock and roll sound. Basically, they have the complete makings of the perfect festival set and they definitely delivered. Songs like ‘Boogie Man’ left me feeling content and I left Boombox much earlier than I had planned because I decided I wanted to be up close for one of my favorite returning artists, Afroman. Unfortunately, Afroman’s transportation to the festival was delayed 45 minutes so we were subjected to a performance by a local drum line and a rap duo I was not impressed with, nor interested in. After waiting nearly a half hour, I seized the opportunity to check out local funk legends The Motet and tried to steal back the groove that Afroman’s folly had killed. After a inspired Talking Heads cover, I moved as close to Main Stage as possible to watch Bassnectar close out the festival. Massive new drops and quite possibly the coolest visual effects I have ever seen only confirmed my suspicion that Mr. Nectar is indeed the best at what he does and he has yet again set the bar for live electronic music. I was ecstatic to hear Lorin announce an upcoming Red Rocks show the first weekend in June and am even more excited for the release of his upcoming album release ‘Vava Voom!’

This festival may be small, it may be young, and is not without its organizational issues, but I think that more than many other events in Colorado, Snowball has captured what it is to be a music fan in this part of the country. Nowhere else will you see so many people so passionate and focused on the music and with so much support for the bands and producers they have known from the beginning. Much love for Colorado festi-goers. You all know how to do it right.