January 10th, 2017
“Whataboutahit? Of your love…”
We could hear the piano intro to Hayden James’s “Something About You” with the familiar twist that ODESZA put on their version.
I was still numb after they played a boisterous trappy remix of Alex Adair’s “Make Me Feel Better.” The melodic dancey hit had turned into a huge sound thanks to the duo’s drum line and live trombone.
How is he playing that trombone in this freezing weather? I wondered as my entire body was covered in goosebumps, and for the first time all weekend it wasn’t from the cold.
ODESZA was on and it was almost midnight.
“Will it ever click? Are you a freak? You turn and face me. Maybe this time I’ll choose.”
The snares (now being played on the drum machine) were loud and tight tapping out the buildup along with the piano and live guitar. I noticed that my hands were in fists and every muscle in my body was clenched.
“I can’t think of a better way to bring in the New Year!” Clayton Knight said on the mic as the bundled up crowd went apeshit. Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap the snares went in double-time while the crescendo became too much to bear. I don’t think I was even breathing.
“Ten! Nine! Eight!” the crowd started counting along with the huge numbers on the LED screen on the stage.
Then 2016 was finally over.
Huge fireworks exploded over our heads and the freaky-weird drop that made ODESZA’s remix of this track one of the greatest ever made blew through the crowd like a nuclear bomb with smoke and lights. The tall evergreen trees surrounding the back of the main stage were lit up making the festival look like a movie set.
Ok. I thought. This moment right now made braving the cold weather worth it.
I tried not to look around as tears were streaming down my face. Everyone was making out anyway. Trying to keep my balance in the icey packed snow I carefully waddled back over to the VIP area to stand under one of the heat lamps and thaw out. Dancing isn’t as easy with huge snow boots on slippery snow and that was my only plan to stay warm.
I watched the rest of ODESZA's set from the warm pocket under one of the four working heat lamps feeling physically blown back by their big sound. It really was the best set I’ve ever heard. A huge difference from the last time I saw them at the Spotify house at SXSW in 2015, and that show was already pretty mind-blowing.
These two make me proud to hail from Washington state. I just hope they can find their way to Hawai’i someday. Until then, I’m happy to travel to see them.
SnowGlobe Music Festival had its ups and downs for me. It turns out watching your favorite music in the cold isn’t as exciting as I had hoped. I felt awkward in so many layers and always waddling so carefully around the festival so I wouldn’t be one of the dozens I saw falling down. For them it's a cute oopsie-daisy but for me with my still-weak immune system it could mean the rest of my trip in the ER. I had to enjoy this and stay healthy. The walk to the parking was endless and Lyft and Uber were taking advantage of the cold weather. The first night it cost me $30 to go 1.2 miles.
The good was worth the bad. The close proximity of the three stages kept the "festival feet" (after Coachella my feet felt like pools of blood) to a minimum. The stage in between the two big outdoor stages was an indoor tent so you could thaw out while watching epic house sets from people like CLASSIXX (who opened with the danciest, most fun remix of George Michael’s “Faith” I’ve ever heard), Gavin Turek (a Los Angeles R&B darling that stole the show), Pat Lok, and Poolside.
Outdoor stage standouts included a nostalgic trippy set by Manila Killa on the Sierra stage and a surprise visit by rising star Jai Wolf, Lido’s beautiful and deliberate live set and Mr Carmack with his Native American dancer and dream-trap on the main stage. Also (of course) Rufus Du Sol who is still one of the greatest performing acts on tour I’ve seen in a while. Flume played all of his best with his signature big sound and even though I missed RL Grime I could feel him shaking the earth from the Igloo indoor tent while the artists were switching over. The set times had long intermissions that made it seem easier to catch everyone I wanted to see, and there was never a time where I felt like I was missing one act to see another. A festival first for me.
The after-parties were worth the investment, as the crowd went from thousands outside to a hundred or less inside an artsy upscale restaurant where the owners kept a close watch on everyone. You could tell they were not too jazzed about these “raver kids” invading their space but I guess everyone likes money. I stayed until the lights came on both nights, dancing in the middle of the restaurant with the tables and chairs moved aside to my old friend JPatt from The Knocks (a master at the afters) and Gavin from Walker & Royce.
“See? It’s an older crowd” I heard someone telling the guy that had to be in charge because he was glaring at all of us the entire time both nights. The second night even better with a b2b2b set including Justin Jay and his trumpet player, saxophone player, Benny Bridges, Josh Taylor were laying out tons of deep house and techno unreleased bangers. Nights like these are my favorite.
Thinking about checking this one out? Here’s some things I made note of:
The festival is all ages and family friendly. It was heart warming to see so many parents able to enjoy the event with their little ones, especially when they were thoughtful enough to give them hearing protection. There were hundreds of concert goers in their thirties, forties even fifties among the co-eds. “You’re here by yourself? That’s so cool!” one young girl in silver bun huggers and white tutu said to me while we waited for the bathroom. The raver bro ratio was delightfully low for an event on a college campus.
Schedule and Lineups
The stages are close and have intermissions between acts which makes it easier to catch everyone you want to see.
Plenty of Food and Shelter
There was a long line of food vendors with outstanding menu items and a couple of indoor lounges to eat and thaw out of needed. Only the VIP had heat lamps that I saw. Either way it was good to have these places to duck into between acts.
Invest in VIP
The accelerated entrance, viewing platforms, warm lamps, always available restrooms, dedicated bars and main stage lounge with more heaters and couches make the extra investment very much worth it. I saw a lot of the talent hanging out in there too.
For the money, the shuttle is your best bet getting to and from the event. They drop you off the closest to the entrance and as long as you get a hotel close to the shuttle pickup points the walking (and freezing) is much more limited. Parking is expensive and far. Ten minute walk is actually twenty minutes and in the late night unforgiving sub zero temperatures it feels like forty-five minutes.
Brrr, South Lake Tahoe
For as cold as it was, the weather was very cooperative and it didn’t start snowing until the day I was heading out of South Lake Tahoe. This was a good and a bad thing as the cold wasn’t as cold as it COULD have been. Still, layering merino wool and long johns with a goose-down jacket and another winter coat felt like I was wearing toilet paper by the end of the night. Keeping your feet dry and warm is critical. I almost got frost bite because I didn’t realize my toes were wet. Bring extra socks every day and keep those little hand warmers in your backpack in case you get wet.
Check the weather before you go. Driving out of Tahoe in the snowstorm I had to stop and get tire chains and install them on my rental car and then travel in a long line of traffic going 7 miles per hour slipping and sliding on the roads for 50 miles. I was estimating getting to the airport by 2pm. I didn’t arrive until 10pm.
Next bucket list festival for me? The Spirit Festival in Bali, Indonesia. Stay tuned.