By Ash D
After wandering around the Snowball Music Festival in Avon, Colorado March 2-4 one thing became incredibly clear; this music festival is a marathon, not a sprint.
With big name headliners like Snoop Dogg, Bassnectar, BoomBox and TV On The Radio, concertgoers flocked to the snowy Rocky Mountains surrounding Beaver Creek Ski Resort for what promised to be a very full weekend.
Outdoor concerts in the winter always seem to go one of two ways – either you will look out on a crowd of bundled-up people politely swaying from side to side, or you can find yourself amidst a crowd of inappropriately dressed revelers who collectively decided not to give a crap about the cold temperatures.
The crowd at this year’s Snowball Fest was as diverse as the lineup. With plenty of electronic acts like Major Lazer, Thick Chick, MartyParty, and Mimosa there was no shortage of glittery club kids waving glow sticks in broad daylight. But there were also plenty of folks sporting tie-dye and dreadlocks walking around the four separate stage areas that kept traffic flowing throughout the venue.
Security and local police were out in full force throughout the weekend but given the current public support for Colorado’s medical marijuana scene, cops explained to local media outlets that they were there to crack down on harder drugs and focus on deterring drunk driving.
Everywhere you turned throughout the weekend there were people blazing up, and throughout the day on Saturday it seems like folks were taking it a step further to prepare for Snoop Dogg who was set to take the stage later that evening.
But there were also some other acts worth checking out on Saturday before the bigger headliners, most notably Denver-based band Kinetix. Blending elements of rock, jam and heavy funk, Kinetix immediately got the crowd going in the Ballroom Tent just as the temperatures were beginning to drop. These guys have been on the festival circuit throughout Colorado and beyond for a while and they did not disappoint with a set of songs that seamlessly flowed into one another, including an unbelievable behind-the-back guitar solo that would have given Stevie Ray Vaughan a run for his money.
After Kinetix it was just a short walk over to the Groove Tent to check out Ghostland Observatory. Ghostland never disappoints when it comes to their light show and the inside of the tent became a kaleidoscope of colors, swirling through the smoke coming from the hyped-up crowd.
Before Ghostland closed out their set, people began migrating to the Main Stage to get in good viewing position before Snoop took the stage as the main headliner. Once things got underway it became immediately clear that people came out to Snowball just for him.
With over 20 years in the game, Snoop’s stage persona is totally dialed in. The set list read like a sing-along with classics like “Gin & Juice,” "Nothin' But a G Thang," and “Next Episode/Smoke Weed Everyday.” Given it was a Snoop show there were plenty of on-stage smoke breaks and fans were worked into a frenzy when he asked how many people were smoking chronic. Once he had them in the palm of his hand, Snoop drove the weed-friendly crowd wild when he closed out the show with his new hit “Young, Wild & Free,” a song sure to become the next college anthem for this generation of Snoop fans.
“I'll be back to this part of Colorado any time you want me,” he told the cheering crowd before ending the evening. “No matter how cold it is. I love y'all. Real shit.”
Sunday brought warmer temperatures to Avon and the crowds seemed to be a little bit rowdier for the final day of the festival. You could immediately tell this day was for the whompers with acts like BoomBox, Beats Antique and Bassnectar, and the game of the day became counting the endless number of chicks in minimal clothing wearing SpiritHoods (you know, those ridiculous hats that look like animals).
All throughout the weekend there was a lot of hype about a secret guest that was scheduled to perform on the Main Stage on Sunday afternoon, and there were obvious mixed reviews from the ravers when slamgrass ensemble, and Colorado-natives, Leftover Salmon took the stage. But, the hippies couldn’t seem happier and it was nice to take a break from all the DJ sets and check out a group working only with actual instruments.
From there it was back to the Groove Tent to check out BoomBox and Beats Antique immediately following. BoomBox has a great Colorado following and the guys did not disappoint with a set that seemed to build with intensity as a larger crowd began to form, spilling out around the tent.
It’s so easy to get on board with BoomBox’s sound. Everything is fluid, every beat flowing into the next without much effort, and it’s awesome to watch the guys move back and forth between DJ equipment and live drums, guitar and keyboard. The blend of beats and riffs make for a dynamic conversation between BoomBox and the crowd, and pretty soon the audience became a mass of gyrating bodies moving perfectly in sync with the music.
After an awesome set by BoomBox, the massive crowds at the Groove Tent were primed and ready for Beats Antique to take the stage.
Part electronic, part tribal and part performance art, Beats Antique puts on an amazing live show and things weren’t any different for their set at this year’s Snowball Fest – a set complete with a belly dancer rocking out on stage. Those fortunate enough to up close were definitely feeling the music until the very end of the set.
Heading over to the Main Stage for Bassnectar more than a few “Basshead” t-shirts could be seen and as soon as he took the stage the entire valley was flooded with light. Bassnectar has always had an impressively calculated and intricate light show, but the best part is that the music backs everything up.
Looking out on the masses from the tiny hill surrounding the main crowd it was hard to tell if the clouds hanging above people’s heads were smoke or heat, but all one had to do was put your nose to the air to realize people were still puffing down hard for the last bit of the festival.
With temperatures plummeting down to the teens the entire ground around the Main Stage was a solid sheet of ice causing numerous people to slip during the music.
It didn’t take long for the glowsticks to start flying through the air and the Colorado crowd went wild when Bassnectar’s Lorin Ashton let it slip that he would be returning to Red Rocks Amphitheater this summer.
One interesting thing to note about this year’s Snowball Fest is that things ended early – like, really early. Bassnectar finished out his set promptly at 8 o’clock much to the chagrin of concertgoers but the energy kept flowing and could be felt throughout the throngs of people making their way to the parking lot.