Article by: Nick Callaio ; Photos By: Beth Ann Johnson and Nick Callaio
Day 1 (03.02.11)
It snowed and the ground froze, but music enthusiasts from all over the country came to celebrate the second annual Snowball Music Festival in the small ski town of Avon, CO this past weekend. With temperatures dropping below zero and people slipping on ice everyone you turned, this wasn't your average music festival by any means. Someone even tried to sneak in the first day and jumped the fence just to break their pelvis because of all the ice. The festival was sign of diversity and how music can bring people of all shapes and sizes, even in the high cold altitude. Dubstep, indie-rock, hip-hop, house, and much more were offered at all four stages—in convenient proximity, an invaluable bonus for those keen on staying upright. Snoop Dogg showed that he still had it, TV on the Radio turned many heads, and Bassnectar made everyone dance themselves warm. When can one watch the dynamic laser show of Ghostland Observatory and then walk three hundred yards to light one up with Snoop? This was an eye-opening experience, ushering in the age of the hybrid, mid-sized music festival.
Gramatik got the ball rolling in the Groove Tent by premiering a brand new EP as his set. This rising star signed to Pretty Lights Music not too long ago and is proving himself to be a promising long-term producer. His hip-hop bass infused act is still catching ears and once dragged into his melodic, chill-out beats, you can become addicted. He recently brought a live guitarist into the loop because he isn't someone that settles for the norm. The Slovenian producer grew up with dreams to be a star, but in his homeland, the chances of making music as a career is slim. Going against the wishes of his parents, he pursued the lifestyle of a DJ and made magic behind the booth.
Leaving the Groove Tent wasn't even a choice because the club banger monster MartyParty was poised to keep the show rolling. He blew up the tent with Waka Flocka's “Hard In Da Paint” remix and had everyone on their toes as promised. Marty is on a grueling tour schedule, but wasn't about to let anyone down, the man is too dedicated to this passion of his. This was just a warm up for Major Lazer's set at Main Stage. The group's set was interesting to say the least. They had all the girls in the air and set the tone for the rest of the festival.
The cold was getting unbearable by the time Big Boi got out on stage. A little late as usual but the Savannah-born, dirty south soldier delivered a great show. Performing “So Fresh So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson” were expected but they were just an addition to the collective festival experience. The main stage area was compared to a gang of penguins trying to keep each other warm. The density of the crowd was tremendous in front of the stage – there was no way to get through it.
Since Identity Tour, most people know Rusko's on stage antics. He screams into the microphone and jumps around like a maniac. He has asked audiences to meet him backstage to give him drugs, but he does know how to play some real dubstep. The whole town of Avon must have heard the off-the-wall UK mad man. He was a logical closer for the DJ-heavy day.
Day 2 (03.03.11)
Saturday was, of course, the best day – opening with Break Science was the commonsense choice. The duo performed tracks from their EP Further Than Our Eyes Can See and remixed five of Chali 2na's songs. Adam Deitch, being the great drummer that he is, flawlessly kept the beat in motion. Borham Lee, a jazz pianist, also made it look easy, and made it one of the best sets of the day. The sounds of Break Science demonstrate their love of music. When you can tell how much effort acts are putting forth on stage, then they are doing something right.
Dillion Francis was up next on the roster and once again proved that the Groove Tent was the place to be. I don't think anyone was really paying attention to any of the details of the music. Patrons were rocketed to the moon on what can only be called “party” music. The sounds are harsh, but it was getting pretty crazy at this point. The temperatures were a touch better so some kind of heat can actually stay in the tent – oh yeah and people slipping everywhere. Little ice mounds were scattered about just to catch someone when they weren't paying attention, which was a lot of the time.
The vibes started to pick up all around in the park. You started to catch your bearings on the whole situation, so navigating around was a little easier. You knew where all the ice was and what were the quickest routes so you couldn't miss too much of anyone's set. Snowball fights, sliding down hills, and people walking around with giant turkey legs – the randomness started to take effect.
TV on the Radio was a surefire hit and possibly the best set of the festival. The group had a full sound and kind of left people in awe. It wasn't some special light show, it was actual music. Most people can tell you that TOTR can make anyone a believer once seen in a live setting. Not only agreeing with the previous statement but they took it above and beyond. Spice is not needed for a recipe but is can make anything good. Every stage had a different atmosphere but Main Stage did have the most variety – nothing new. TOTR was a crucial part in the equation that made Snowball what is was.
There was no time, because the laser light show of Ghostland Observatory was about to take hold of the Groove Tent. Seven different lasers took over and opened with “Piano Man.” Set highlights included “Freeze” and “Codename Rondo.” Being a veteran when it comes to Ghostland, the surprise levels weren't too high. Frontman, Aaron Behrens, is an entertainer like Freddie Mercury, and has a vibrant stage presence. A middle-aged woman was cramped against the front rail awaiting the duo, when asked why she was so close, “I love Ghostland; I wouldn't miss it for the world!” This was the most packed that the popular Groove Tent has been the past two days. Selling out venues across the United States is easy for them now, but don't lose track of these guys.
Now, everyone was waiting for one of the biggest names in hip hop today to take the stage: Snoop Dogg. He isn't someone to see multiple times because most of his songs are probably implanted in your head already, whether you like it or not. That includes “Ain't Nothin But A G Thang” or “Drop It Like It's Hot” and “Next Episode” which were all played. After seeing all the music of the day, people just want something they can grasp and Snoop was it. It's not like he has any really new songs, they are mostly stored in the memory banks just waiting to come out. Rappers like to hear their own names and he reinforced that asking what his name was the whole time. All in all, Snoop Dogg is the man. He was in numerous movies like The Wash and Soulplane. He is an entrepreneur and one of the smoothest men in this world, Snoop will always sit in the throne. Closing with “Young, Wild and Free” he reminded us that it's ok to be young and have fun, especially at this festival.
Day 3 (03.04.11)
The sun finally came out on the last day and the layers started to come off. NiT GriT and Two Fresh kicked things off in the Groove Tent. Danny Beall is known for heavy bass, but he puts his own symphonic touches on it. The bass-infested Groove Tent was a little nerve-wracking at times, but people still made the best out of it. The ground was nice and spongy from the melted snow. Gone were the icy booby traps, and people could relax and enjoy their Sunday out.
Two Fresh segued into their set and, as expected, straight up and down murdered it. Like many other artists, they dropped some new tunes and the twins (Kendrick and Sherwyn Nicholls) rapped a little. For some reason, hip-hop and dubstep just go together like peas and carrots. The trio was just added to the Colorado roster of artists; this western state is starting to become even more of a breeding ground for music.
The ever-evolving Alabama duo BoomBox hit the stage with confidence. Zion Godchaux and Russ Randolph's chemistry is like nothing around, they come out with no set list and make a show from scratch. They dropped into “Boogeyman” and it was beautiful, most music isn't beautiful but Boombox definitely is. They sent the tent to another place, bringing the mellow mood with ease. Being the last act on the stage, they had to step it up to ensure a good show for people to walk away smiling.
Beats Antique was hot off Envision festival in Costa Rica that morning, ready to prove they are a festival act. Club and theater shows can be stressful and time-consuming, because performers want them to turn out perfect. Festivals are a little more relaxed, there is no extravagant stage setup – just the trio trying to have fun like everyone else. Zoe Jakes came out to “Alto” from their newest album, Elekrafone. “Alleyway” and “Cat Skillz” also made it into the set– this was easily one of the most popular sets of the weekend. Unfortunately The Motet had the same time slot in the Ballroom Stage but BA was the obvious winner. Expect a lot more than usual from the trio this summer, they are finally getting recognized for their hard work and not just a mid-range act taken for granted.
It was time for the belle of the ball Lorin Ashton (Bassnectar) to shake the mountains, and started by saying, “I guarantee that you take some layers off during my set.” Being the hit from last year and stealing the show from the Flaming Lips, he was promised to blow minds. The hour and a half set was bass-filled and he even played the popular Ellie Goulding remix of “Lights”.
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