SnowBall Music Festival 2012: Day 1 travelogue

Patrick Rodgers
These brave souls survived the journey to Avon and are ready to rock.
Getting to the SnowBall Music Festival is not for the faint of heart -- that much becomes clear a few miles west of Idaho Springs, when a snow flurry becomes snow fall on I-70, slowing traffic to a crawl once it accumulates. Signs warning of "Icy Road" seem almost mocking: uh, thanks Captain Obvious. But for those who make the journey, the music is worth it.

It's not until a few miles shy of the festival grounds that the snow lightens up and a happy little blob of blue sky appears above the landscape, as if Bob Ross put turquoise on his brush by mistake while putting the finishing touches on a strikingly unhappy painting of clouds. After checking in to the hotel and getting back to the festival grounds, it's a clear, sunny day, but bitter cold. The high was 18 and the low was around 7.

There is no shortage of warning, after all: one knows they are going to an outdoor music event in Colorado in early March, but the lack of any heat is surprising. Several people who paid full price for their tickets are perturbed that no one thought of putting more than one heat lamp out for the general public (there are two in the VIP area as well, making three on the whole grounds that I could see.)

There's also a troubling lack of signage. During the mile trek from the parking lot to the festival grounds, a wrong turn puts us at the back entrance, where no one is quite sure where to pick up passes. It results in having to walk around the circumference of the festival grounds, which sort of sucks, considering Avon's sidewalks are rarely much more than a sheet of ice. Again, this is definitely not for the faint of heart. You have to want to get there.

Patrick Rodgers
Diplo stands atop the DJ set up on the main stage.
When Major Lazer takes the stage at 5:30 p.m. all that other bullshit fades away into a full-fledged dance orgy where personal space is forgotten in exchange for shimmying, gyrating, grinding and nearly unlimited styles of arm waving. There are two dancers who are killing it. One is wearing a leopard print body suit, and kicking her legs while standing on her head -- fluorescent pink sneakers scissoring the air. The other has dreads down to her waist and a bright yellow jumpsuit. This is what the Jamaican space program looked like before a Cool Runnings-esque change of fate. Cue the video montage.

Diplo absolutely kills it -- dropping a bunch of new Major Lazer tracks (including "Original Don" which has a hilarious video attached to it.) There's also some massive dubstep, a drop of "N****s in Paris" off Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne, and loads of pounding tropical bass and dance hall. While I worried that their starting while the sun was still shining might prove problematic to the late night regulars, once the sun set, everything kicked up the next level, including the light show.

Patrick Rodgers
The silhouette of Walshy, one of the masters of ceremony during the Major Lazer show, who was visiting from Jamaica.
It's cold out here? What are you talking about? Things are in full swing now. Hoards of people wandering around. By 7 p.m. I've seen a guy in a bear suit made of yarn, a furry zebra beast and a guy getting escorted out in handcuffs. The party has started.

Big Boi had a tough act to follow, and in hindsight it might've made more sense to have him on for sunset (his lighting had a blaze orange, sunset vibe to it anyway), because even though Daddy Fat Sacks brought some classic heat from the Outkast catalog, it seemed like no match for the throbbing, pulsing, bass-heavy mayhem unleashed by Major Lazer just a half hour earlier.

Patrick Rodgers
Big Boi's stage set up looked like it would be warm, but dancing was the only means of heat near the mainstage.
I could really use a foot warmer, but the only heat source available is a heat lamp about six and a half feet off the ground. "Could I stand on my head to warm my feet," one passing guy wonders to no one in particular.

One girl is so enthusiastic about the heat that her glove catches fire after accidentally putting her hand too close to the lamp. (She was fine, but her glove was singed through.) I decide to go out in search of the Heat Hut, a structure I can see labeled on my map, but which I haven't had a chance to visit yet. The Heat Hut is sort of a disappointment. Its name must be a metaphor or something. Don't call anything the Heat Hut if there's no heat in it. That's not fair. I thought it would be my oasis of warmth. Instead, I just danced to Wolf+Lamb and Soul Chop for a few minutes -- that helped a little, but it wasn't exactly a roaring fire place.

Patrick Rodgers
Reinforcements were brought in by tractor. PBR was selling well, apparently.
Across the way, in the Groove Tent, Mimosa was destroying his set. Perched in the middle of an LCD pyramid, his silhouette was cut against a psychedelic stream of colored light patterns covering the DJ booth. He laid down an interesting cross section of dubstep, from easy rollers to straight-up bangers with occasional forays into crunchier, left field material.

Patrick Rodgers
Beer, confetti and fake hipster must be a party.
Confetti and beer cans litter the ground. There's a guy with a mohawk and light-up finger clips flipping everyone off.

Some random dude is yelling "Why am I the one taking care of your little sister right now?" to a girl standing nearby. I can't feel my right foot. I think it's time to go home. It's been a long day.

-- Patrick Rodgers

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