Whether I like it or not, it seems that my life’s mantra is never a dull moment, even when I want one. With how crazy my life’s gotten over the past few weeks, when I finally poked my head into my emails for a breath of technologically enriched air – I realized that I had a golden ticket (two, to be precise) to my first Global Dance Festival out in Red Rocks, sitting plush in Red Rocks Park, Colorado. A world renowned natural open-air amphitheater, Red Rocks without a doubt has been part of every music lovers bucket list.
Fun fact – once upon a time, Red Rocks was considered as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’; thankfully, it’s still revered as a wonder of the natural world – and rightfully so! Red Rocks Amphitheater is the culmination of gigantic naturally sloping rock monoliths that date back over 160 million years to the Jurassic period, and is littered with the fossil fragments of flying reptiles, marine reptiles and sea serpents. The northern side is referred to as ‘Creation Rock’ while the southern side is ‘Ship Rock’ – and they’re both bigger than Niagara Falls.
Back at the turn of the 1900’s, a railroad pioneer by the name of John Brisben Walker discovered the area and had a pipe dream of perfect acoustics married with the breathtaking surroundings of Denver. Within the next decade, he’d performed multiple times on a temporary platform he built in the spirit of live music. At the behest of the manager of the Denver Parks, Walker sold the property to the city of Denver – who, in turn, took his vision and ran with it: building a permanent stage. in 1927. By the mid 30’s, it was evident that Red Rocks was in need of a formal design – but it couldn’t be just any design with a landscape like that; it has to play with the natural beauty of the park – enter esteemed local architect Burnham Hoyt.
In a length span of 12 years, the Amphitheater’s plans were drawn, the location was dedicated and then finally during Easter of ’47 – Red Rocks opened in all of her currently glory, attracting some of the most talented acts across the genres, the decades and around the globe. In the 60’s, it was The Beatles playing the only non-sold out date of their US tour; in the 70’s, a rowdy group of Jethro Tull fans changed the game for the next five years as non-ticket holders attempted to crash the festival – this led to a ban on ‘heavier sounding’ acts that was finally dropped in ’75. And then, the big dogs came out to play: The Grateful Dead, John Denver, Fleetwood Mac, Rush, Jimi Hendrix, and not to mention where U2’s monumental Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky was filmed. While the 90’s came into focus, so did Alternative and Rock bands – Dave Matthews, Incubus, Oasis, A Perfect Circle and Phish have all hosted monumental events there; and with the turn of the century, Red Rocks witnessed a changing of the guard – in addition to raucous rock and roll evenings, the night air at Red Rocks is filled with glitch heavy bass sounds from artists like Bassnectar and Griz, jam sessions from infamous acts like STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee and deliriously delicious trance sounds from big name groups like Above & Beyond. Last but certainly not least – Red Rocks is the official home to events and festivals like Global Dance Festival and HARD Red Rocks – which will bring in heavy acts like NERO and Dillon Francis, an offshoot of the Los Angeles HARD Festival series.
What commenced as ‘Rave on the Rocks‘ back in ’99, has triumphantly catapulted into a massive, multi-day, cross genre production that solidifies itself as the top music festival in the Mid-West; for those of you that couldn’t make it all the way to Morrison, Colorado for the event – don’t fret, there’s a sister event in Kansas City, Missouri with multiple stages and a equivalently epic lineup featuring some of the same artists. Anyhow! As one of the longest running festivals in North America, Global Dance Festival has been bringing the lights and love to Morrison, Colorado for the last 16 years. Back in the olden days of festivals, we didn’t have to hike up hill both ways or anything – but we did only have one stage and we were all in it together. From beginning to end – bouncing, dancing, spinning, laughing and prancing through it all – we collectively move to the melodies, heartbeats entwined and eyes transfixed on the glory of the artist, band or whatever live entertainment was radiating in front of us. With only one stage this year, GDE takes us all back that simpler time: where you didn’t have to worry about a meeting place, where you didn’t have to stress about set time conflicts and where you could simply dance your worries away into the night.
Now – though Red Rocks stands as a natural Amphitheater, that doesn’t go to say that sound hasn’t been artificially enhanced – nor does it mean that it’s gone over well. The heavy metalhead turned dubstep DJ Bassnectar decided to bust out his own speakers, and has seemingly racked up over $100,000 in fines at the Rocks – on multiple occasions. Over time, this pushed the residents – and then the city of Denver – to enact a new noise ordinance on the area. In a tour de force, the music community came together to help contribute to the atrocious fine as well as speak up in support of his decision to be heard loud and clear. As of June 1st, 2013 several changes were put in place: the noise level at the festival can’t reach above ‘105 decibels one-minute averages after midnight‘ As for the bass, it ‘can’t exceed 125 decibels at the low-frequency levels of 25-80 hertz for one-minute averages’; music also ends at midnight on weekdays and 1am on the weekend. Measured by the city’s own equipment at the front of house position, performers can be charged $10,000 for every five times they’re found in violation of the new law. Though some artists aren’t happy, others – including Pretty Lights labelmate Michal Menert : If anything, this is going to bring more dynamic out in the music because it will allow more frequencies to breathe…It will be less in-your-face sound coming at you and more dynamic.
10 Must See Acts of GDE
With just 10 days until we get down with our bad selves at Global Dance Festival, it’s only right that I present the 10 artists that you definitely have to catch over the weekend. From Trance to Trap, Dubstep to Drum & Bass – this festival has it all, so open your ears and get your dancing feet ready for three nights of massive music.
Somewhere between the emotive, dubstep laced soundscapes and the high energy, glitch fueled basslines – I feel head over heals in love with the music from this dynamic Canadian duo. Best known for their emotive remix of ‘Crave You’ from Flight Facilities’ and their Superheroes Anonymous Podcasts, Adventure Club has more than earned a spot on my top 10 ranking.
Essentially known as the Godfather of Drum and Bass, Andy C not only turns out some of the most beautiful beats in the business but he’s also been the bossman at RAM Records he was 16. 22 years later, and the label is currently home base to acts notable acts like SubFocus, Chase & Status and Wilkinson.
Hailing from Seattle, Odesza has been on the rise over the last few years with “My Friends Never Die” – their debut EP – releasing in ’13.
Destroid – which, technically, counts as 3.
With their powers combined, Excision, Downlink and former Pendulum member KJ Swaka have formed bass heavy uber group – Destroid! The trio don’t perform together often, so suffice it to say: bring your ear plugs – things are about to get 100% bonkers at the Rocks…
Because I couldn’t find any live recordings of the group, enjoy some individual ones:
Sometimes they play DJ sets, other times they play as a live band – but any way you spin it, this Israeli Psy-trance duo is one of my favorite live bands I’ve ever seen. Formed almost 20 years ago, they’re currently one of the top performing and best selling groups in Israeli history both in domestic and international sales; if you don’t understand why, you’re in for a real treat.
Expertly fusing R&B with dark, dubby beats and wobbles – Kastle has more than made his mark using his signature sound. One of my favorite remixes of his, Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home – is to this day one of my favorite, feel good tracks. I’ve only seen him live once so I absolutely can’t wait to get my fill of him a second time!
Trance me!! If there’s one thing that GDE is severely lacking this year, it’s trance – in the past, the festival’s been home to the likes of Armin, Oakenfold and BT but as the tunes changes, so do the times – and there’s a lot more of a demand for body rattling bass than there is for uplifting, ethereal trance. Thank goodness we’re leaving it to Gabriel & Dresden to change the game on that over the weekend; best known for their epic track ‘Without You Near’, the two have a combined 26 years in the business and are just as adept solo as they are collectively
Last, but certainly not least – how could I forget: Zedd! The 19 year old German prodigy has had his youthful little paws on some of your favorite remixes and albums – and quite possibly without you ever even knowing. Gaining notoriety via Beatport remix competitions, Zedd has produced muliple songs on multiple albums for Lady Gaga, not to mention assisting in the Bieb’s -‘ Beauty and a Beat’. Not only can Zedd read the crowd, he knows how to play them, to elevate them and to move them – so make sure those dancing shoes are on tight, we’re about to have the ride of our lives.
Even though this post was initially about the ten acts to not miss at Red Rocks, the truth of the situation is that with only one stage: as long as you’re physically present, you’ll be seeing the entire breadth of the roster. So to send you off, is a playlist of my favororite songs from each and every artist that’ll be gracing the stage of Red Rocks next weekend – enjoy!