Walking onto the festival grounds, amongst the thousands of people laughing, dancing, hoola hooping, singing, and blowing bubbles around you, the outside world instantly fades from memory as you're suddenly immersed in the music, flashing lights, and characters of all kinds that make Snowball the destination it has become. The festival grounds at its new location were small, but not too small - just the right size, in fact. The Main Stage was large and in charge with more than enough space to accommodate the whole fest, while a half pipe sat next to it, where snowboarders showcased tricks in between shows. The Groove Tent was a fairly large size, covered by a canopy with walls that kept in the heat, providing an incredible relief from the cold. And the Ballroom Tent, though a little smaller than the Groove Tent, was still an appropriate size to house its crowd. Food tents lined one side of the fest, a fire pit sat smack dab in the middle of everything, and a trail of balloons canopied the sky - all while surrounded by snow covered mountains and evergreens. With a deep breath of that fresh, Rocky Mountain air, we took a moment to take it all in before making our way to the Main Stage.
Kendrick Lamar @ The Main Stage
First up was Kendrick Lamar, without question one of the top MC's in the game as of late. And his stage presence is beyond his years - effortlessly hyping and taking control of the crowd. Moving back and forth across the stage, and at times jumping in unison with the crowd, Kendrick was doin' his thang and working an audience that wasn't strictly hip hop oriented. And playing most of his hits, from "Money Trees" to "M.A.A.D. City," Kendrick certainly didn't disappoint. After vibing out with Kendrick for a while, we then jetted over to the Groove Tent to catch Chicago's own Krewella, who already had the crowd jumping when we arrived. Their bass driven sound had everyone going crazy, and of course it didn't hurt to have the two lovely ladies of Krewella hopping around the stage, acting as their own hype chicks - definitely the perfect primer for Big Gigantic, who would close the first night. Big G was Snowball's first headliner, and again, there was no disappointing. As DJ's continue to steal the show from bands in the EDM scene, its always refreshing to see live instruments being incorporated into DJs' sets. For me, this is what sets Big G apart from other acts, as they have live drums throughout their set, as well as live sax. Highlights from their set included their remixes of "Can I Get A" and "Get Em High," as well as an always on point dropping of Knife Party's "Bonfire."
Datsik @ The Groove Tent
Saturday, although a little colder, met us with sunshine and a new day of great music ahead. We'd spend most of the day at the Groove Tent, where first up was TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs). I'd heard good things about TEED, so we made sure to get to the festival in time to see him - and we were kind of blown away by this English talent. Throughout his set, TEED sang, played the piano, and mixed - all at the same damn time. While I've seen DJ's such as Nero use live vocals in their set, I'd never before seen a DJ do the singing himself! Props. He also had two dancers on stage as he performed, which is always encouraged.
As the sun began to set, Canadian dubstep master Datsik took the stage of the Groove Tent, and quickly turned up Snowball a few notches. His bass drove deep into everyones gut, as his light show captivated the crowd. If TEED didn't get you moving, you were moving now. Hands were up, beach balls of all colors and sizes burst up from throughout the crowd like popcorn, and judging by the amount of eyes that were closed, I could tell the audience was more than engaged. We stuck around Datsik for as long as we could before heading over to the main stage to catch Saturday's headliner, Pretty Lights. No doubt one of the biggest names in EDM, Colorado's own Pretty Lights went all out with his light show. It may have been a little much actually. At times it seemed disorganized, and as a personal advocate of lazers, there was a serious lack of them. But alas, the show was decent. Alongside classics like "More Important Than Michael Jordan" and "Hot Like Sauce," Pretty Lights also dropped a number of new songs we'd never heard before - which, of course, is always tight.
Flosstradamus @ The Groove Tent
Sunday proved to be the most gong show day of Snowball, starting with Destructo. Talk about crowd control - Destructo is a master of build ups. His ability to bring the crowd to peaks that drop into chaos is incredible. His set was extremely danceable, reminiscent of TEED - but heavier, with a sound that straight up forces you to groove. And although playing without any lights (as his show was during the day), Destructo had two dancers on stage, adding a visual element to his already captivating sound. Following Destructo was Chicago's own trap stars Flosstradamus.
It was approaching dusk as Floss took the stage of the Groove Tent, so they were able to use lights with their show, which, of course, adds an extra element of crazy to any set. If you've been to a Floss show, you know things get turned up right off the bat. Between the strobe lights and the duo jumping up and down behind the decks, Snowball quickly took a turn for the ratchet. The way Flosstradamus blends hip hop with EDM continues to make fans of both genres go nuts - myself included. And as they ended their set, their fan appreciation was more than evident as they took the time to slap hands and snap pics, mingling with fans for a minute before heading backstage.
After Floss, we headed to the Main Stage to catch future funk pioneer Grizmatik (the recent collaboration between Griz & Gramatik). I was lucky enough to be one of the few at their first official show last year in Chicago, so I was definitely psyched to see the two artists on stage together again. Griz is known for incorporating live sax in his shows, and Gramatik always has a live guitarist in his shows, so combined they damn near had a whole band on stage. Dropping their hit "Digital Liberation Is Mad Freedom" as well as a slew of new tracks they've been working on, Grizmatik's set proved to be the funkiest of the weekend, revealing a creative partnership that will be exciting to watch grow. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for their whole set, as Crizzly & Lil Flip were soon to take the stage of the Ballroom Tent.
Lil Flip @ The Ballroom Tent
I've always said the best shows are at the smallest venues, which proved to be the case at Snowball, as the craziest show was at the venue's smallest tent - the Ballroom Tent. Who we were there to see was up and coming Texas DJ Crizzly, with none other than Lil Flip... yeah boy. If you wanna talk crazy, ratchet, booty shakin', gong show shit, let's talk about Crizzly with Lil Flip. The first half of the show featured Crizzly behind the decks, while the best hype man I've ever seen got the crowd in a roar. Hands were up, booties were shakin'... shit, the whole crowd was bouncin' to Crizzly's gritty, trapped out, bass before Lil Flip even took the stage. And when he did, whatever sanity lingering in the crowd was long gone. Lil Flip made it rain on the people up front as he rapped, swingin' his white towel while he leaned with the beats. Highlights from the set include Crizzly's remixes of "Chain Hang Low," "Hard In Da Paint," and, of course, the insane remix of Lil Flip's "The Way We Ball."
STS9 @ The Main Stage
The festival would end with Sound Tribe Sector 9 at the Main Stage, a solid conclusion to a weekend of great music. One of the few bands performing at Snowball, STS9 is a group of dedicated professionals who know what they're doing. With the rare ability to completely capture the psyche of an audience, their enchanting, funky grooves, and hypnotic light show was a beautiful end to a successful weekend of good music, good people, and good vibes. As the fireworks went off towards the conclusion of their show, we rounded up the troops and headed towards the gates, already talking about Snow Ball 2014... we can't wait.
It was cold - yes, and at times slippery. And after a full day of dancing in the snow, your body's going to hurt a bit. But at the end of the day, it's nothing a little personal time in front of the fireplace can't fix. You quickly learn how to dress appropriately (layers on layers), and the people behind Snowball did the best they could to combat the ice and snow with straw to help keep your footing. There was a large fire pit in the middle of the festival grounds, as well as sporadically placed heaters, where you could warm yourself up for a bit before heading back into the trenches. There was good food (shout out to the big ass turkey leg stand), helpful people, and awesome music - both inside and outside the festival grounds. The town of Winter Park was more than inviting to all festival goers, and I think its safe to say the Snowball Music Festival will be setting the tone for festival season for years to come.