Live electronic music is hard to review. With so little in the way of actual performance, the little nuances that make each producer’s show unique are often so subdued that specific descriptors are lost on all but the most dedicated and interested fans. That being said, reviewing this years’ Global Dance Festival will be easy. The ten year anniversary of Red Rocks’ only surviving three day festival has seared the doctrines of whomp whomp and untz untz deep into my head and I have since been obsessed with all things techno, house, moombah, dubstep, electro, trap, and trance. From the stacked lineup to the killer production, GDF 2012 was definitely over the top, and no matter how tired I got of running up and down stairs between stages, there was always something awesome and surprising waiting for me once I got there. Yes, my three days on the rocks were long, exhausting, and slightly repetitive, but this was definitely an unforgettable Red Rocks experience and easily the best incarnation of GDF I have ever seen.
Day one started early. I arrived in the venue around 5:00, joining about 30 people sitting at the main stage for Denver based electro-house duo, Axis of Evil. Though it was early, I noticed a few of the early arrivers already going hard even though the mid-day sun was shining hot.
Up next on the main stage was James Egbert, an up-and-coming electro-house artist who made his live performance debut at last years GDF. The venue had started to fill up at this point, no doubt due to the buzz that Egbert has generated in his past year of kick ass shows and hit releases. On the top level, JQA, another Denver house duo, was spinning the sun down with another house set, but I quickly ran down the back stairs to catch Project Aspect at the Global NRG Stage. This local producer has been playing all over the place, from Sonic Bloom to Cervantes to an opener set for Pantyraid back in November, and he has definitely been turning heads through it all. Dubstep, Trap, and hip-hop samples all come through in his performance of purely original music, and for being confined to the tiny back patio stage, he threw down hard like he always does.
Dragon and Jontron took up the reins on the main stage as dusk approached and the energy started to build exponentially. The venue was still not quite half full, but those that were there were on their feet and getting down. The mirror covered ‘disco ball man’ cavorted around the crowd and front stage areas with the costumed go-go dancers, providing some extra element of live performance to the LED laden stage. Ekotek took over next continuing the electro house groove that seemed to permeate the evening. It was now dark enough to catch the full effect of the stage production (which was incredible to say the least). Twelve LED panels accompanied by a melody of movers, sweepers, cans, and lasers made a truly awesome spectacle, often times seeming too complicated and intricate to see all at once.
I journeyed back up the stairs before Ecotek’s set had ended so I could grab a beer (and catch my breath) before Krewella took over the Bass Stage and upon arrival I was treated to a mellow, minimalist house set from Turner and Heit. There was not nearly as much energy in the crowd as Ecotek was stirring up, but I enjoyed the opportunity to relax a bit and take in some fresh ‘come down’ music while enjoying my eight dollar banquet beer. By the time Krewella was starting, the top level of Red Rocks was packed. From the front of the VIP/Photo pit to the very bottom of ship rock, it was clear that this was going to be the rowdiest set of the evening and ladies and gentlemen, it definitely was. This dubstep three piece does their own vocals, and although they don’t sing during their live performances, there is definitely a personal touch to their music that is both endearing and impressive. Couple that sing-a-long-ability with HUGE bass drops and in your face synth samples and you have a set on par with Skrillex or Nero. (If you can, go check them out when they open for SAVOY at Red Rocks on September 7th).
After raging with the out of control crowd at Krewella and snapping a few pics, I started back down the stairs to see house legend Hardwell. The set didn’t have the same energy as Krewella’s, but was still bangin’ in a very different way. Four on the floor kicks and multi-layered synth loops had me fist pumping and bouncing around like I had suddenly appeared in Ibiza.
Headliner’s Knife Party were up next and as soon as they stepped on stage, the crowd erupted. This duo (both formerly of the electro-rock band Pendulum) has released hit after hit since their inception in August 2011 and have progressed EDM culture far beyond where it was not a year ago. Songs like ‘Internet Friends’, ‘Destroy Them With Lazers’, and ‘Bonfire’ are singable, danceable, and catchy as hell, so it was no surprise to me that the crowd was utterly off the wall for every second of their set.
Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia closed things out with a set of SHM hits and a few of his originals to an all but lethargic crowd. Steam jets, confetti, and streamers capped off the evenings production with an epic finale and the crowd reciprocated with screams and shouts that could likely be heard from beyond the parking lots. I was skeptical that Day 2 would even hold a candle to the madness that was Day 1, but alas I had another thing coming…