Global Dance Festival at Red Rocks
Every year, the Global Dance Festival brings some of the best in electronic music to the best outdoor venue on the planet, and Friday night's sold-out show was no exception. Judging from the proliferation of Deadmau5 T-shirts, hats and other paraphernalia, a lot of the crowd was there to shake it to the Canadian electro/progressive house DJs dirty beats, but before he took the stage at midnight, there was much more spectacular music to be heard echoing through the foothills.
I caught the very end of Fury and MC Dino's set as I was checking in, and Fury's frantic drum-and-bass definitely had the crowd -- which filled about a third of the Red Rocks main stage benches -- pumped. At 6:30 p.m., Denver's own electro/progressive house DJ duo, Manufactured Superstars, was taking the stage and shaking things up with a blend of dirty basslines, a clapping beat and deep techno bell sounds.
The Superstars definitely have a retro feel to them, with their white tracksuits and choice of tracks; it gives their music a synthesized, retro vibe, like disco meets the '80s. Progressive house needs to be carefully selected and mixed tightly in order to avoid the cheesy trance feel that's so prevalent in that genre, and the Manufactured Superstars are experts at both track selection and mixing, choosing pieces with strong, sassy female vocals.
Up at the Global NRG Stage at the top of Red Rocks, Technical Endeavor was spinning with MC Dozha. Another drum-and-bass DJ, Technical Endeavor meanders toward the "intelligent" end of the spectrum -- and although drum-and-bass is one of my favorite genres of electronic music, I have to admit to not enjoying this set. What I heard was spaced-out and cheesy, with soaring female vocals that sounded better suited to Paul Van Dyk (who'll be playing the second evening) than a drum-and-bass track.
Meanwhile, Manufactured Superstars continued to tear it up on the main stage, mixing in samples from political speeches before dropping into a slow roots/reggae vibe, then speeding it back up into dancehall. They threw on Fedde Le Grand's tech house anthem, "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit," but changed the lyrics to "Denver" -- and yes, we do love this city. The Superstars were full of surprises, dropping from dreamy female vocals into dirty, siren-filled electro tracks.
On the Global Bass.Code.0 Stage, located downstairs to the west of the upper stage, Ishe vs. Soleil with OPM were mixing in weird, eerie noises with vibrating bass and wa-wa sounds. I stayed for only a minute, because upstairs at the Global NRG Stage, Heavyweight Dub Champion was throwing down an excellent trip-hop/dub set, mixing in KRS-One lyrics with funky downtempo beats and spooky noises before moving into spaced-out intervals with meandering melodies going no place in particular before dropping back in with deep and serious piano melded with tight, quick drumlines and deep, dirty basslines moving in slow syncopation. Heavyweight Dub Champion uses a lot of hip-hop tracks in his mixes, but he spent a little bit too long in the spaced-out intervals, losing the unity in the crowd before building it back up with another superb trip-hop track.
Back on the main stage, Axis of Evil had taken over from Manufactured Superstars with a synth/electro meld offering up snare drums and frantic beeping sirens dropping into syncopated beats and mixing in the stellar guitar line from Blur's "Song 2" to Simian's "We Are Your Friends" (a track I heard all over Coachella in 2007; classic) to Daft Punk's "Around the World." In a tribute to 4:20, the emcee encouraged the audience to "put the blaze up" while a smoke machine spewed its issue into the sky. They even had an electric violin playing live on stage, adding an extra component to the set.
I was drawn back to the Global NRG Stage by Kraddy, who mixes a blend of music unlike anything I've heard before. He cuts hip-hop with dubstep and dancehall in a sort of breakbeat-like hybrid. The result is dark and slow, offering up quick, irregular high hats and introducing deep bell tones that start off clean but eventually distort into dirty basslines, accented by the fast, sibilant drumlines. It's funky and dirty and utterly danceable -- in fact, I'd say some of the best dancers at the festival were right in front of Kraddy for this set, breaking it down; I enjoyed watching them. He mixed in Ludacris and Nate Dogg, among other hip-hop icons.