Live review: SnowBall Music Festival @ Nottingham Park (Avon, Colo.)By Nate Etter | March 5th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
For the second year in a row, the three-day SnowBall Music Festival brought an eclectic lineup of electronic and live talent to Avon, Colo. And for the second year in a row, it was cold. Despite subfreezing temperatures for much of the festival, youthful partygoers gathered by the thousands each night and braved the cold by engaging in the most logical means possible — dance.
This year’s festival was a well-organized endeavor that appeared to work out the kinks of its first installment. Despite a few ice-covered pathways (which quickly drew crowds that cheered on falling victims), the premises were well maintained and help was easy to find. In addition to four different stages, including a sprawling Groove Tent that became the center of attention for much of the weekend, SnowBall had a wide variety of vendors, food, and late night offerings for ticketholders.
While the festival made a commendable effort to diversify its lineup — with acts ranging from the indie-rock-soul of TV on the Radio to the blazing bluegrass of Trampled By Turtles — it was abundantly clear that SnowBall continues to be an electronic music showcase for a fanbase and culture that seems to be growing exponentially. It was a rare occasion to walk the grounds without hearing the earthshaking percussive bass that has come to define the dubstep movement.
The free-spirited sense of community and unapologetic style that has surrounded this rise was impossible to ignore. Popular vendors included the Grassroots flatbrim hat collection, booths dedicated to neon glasses and light-up accessories, and the head-turning animal hats made by Spirithoods (who must have made a killing over the length of the weekend).
An early 1 p.m. start and periods of snow made it difficult for Friday’s first acts to attract the crowd or energy they may have hoped for, though the place finally filled up in time for Main Stage performances by Big Boi and Rusko. The rapper stayed true to what the crowd obviously wanted to hear, spitting a set loaded with classic Outkast hits creatively reworked into medleys. UK dubstep producer Rusko followed with a frantic set of heavy hitters that, for better or worse, truly pushed the limits of how much piercing sound the raging audience could handle.
Saturday brought tamer weather and saw the festival take full form. Midday sets by talented folk acts like Denver’s Nathaniel Ratliff and Seattle’s the Head and the Heart provided an easy-going transition into an evening that would be dominated by aggressive Groove Tent performances from Break Science (featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5), Dillon Francis and Ghostland Observatory. Ghostland’s set was perhaps the most memorable of the entire weekend, marked by an incredibly dialed in laser show and the outlandish dancing and delivery of lead singer Aaron Kyle Behrens.
The night concluded with a headlining performance from hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, who did not disappoint. His hit-filled set brought the West Coast funk sound to life by enlisting a live drummer and bassist in addition to backup dancers and MCs to aid him through his extensive catalog of sing-alongs. As expected, the set focused on little more than weed, women, and how to reference his name in a multitude of ways.
Sunday saw the festival draw to a close with a crowd-pleasing line-up, including a surprise appearance by Colorado’s beloved jam band Leftover Salmon. The Groove Tent was again the place to be during sets by the feel-good electro duo Boombox and the experimental oddness of Beats Antique, while the Motet finally filled the festival’s funk void over a disappointing main stage performance by Afroman.
A headlining performance by dubstep producer Bassnectar brought the festival to a close. His hard-hitting delivery and vibrating low-end was a fitting end to a weekend that could be summed up by the motto, “there is no such thing as too much bass.”
With the impressive turnout and undeniable interest in the second edition of SnowBall, it is safe to say that the festival is quickly becoming a tradition that will continue to put Colorado on the map in the diverse and wild world of electronic music.
Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Ty Hyten is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.
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