[FESTIVAL RECAP] The Slippery Success of Snowglobe 16′
All Photography Courtesy of Lexy Galvis;
Although the weather was cold this past weekend when SnowGlobe Festival returned this year to snowy South Lake Tahoe, the lineup brought massive heat to Lake Tahoe Community Colleges breathtaking campus. Headliners The Chainsmokers, Flume, Major Lazor, and Odesza threw down beats with a backdrop of skyward pines and snow covered Sierras. It was truly like something I had never experienced, having only attended warm weather festivals or indoor winter events. The setting of the festival and the venue itself lent itself to a unique experience, with its own unique strengths, and ultimately, setbacks.
Here are some things that I noticed:
You’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting and beautiful place to be for New Years Eve than Tahoe. Because of that truth, you’re also going to be hard pressed to find reasonably priced accommodations without foresight and perseverance. My mistake of waiting until two months before the festival to look for a place to stay almost meant a daily commute from Carson City, which would have been a huge drag after experiencing NYE weekend traffic on those mountain roads that lead in and out of the Tahoe Valley. On the other hand, my lack of planning led to me meeting some seriously cool people, including a group of rowdy Idaho folk who I hitched a ride to the festival with from San Francisco, and a group of mostly strangers from all over the country who I shared an AirBnb with- in fact this festival, and all the extra planning that it requires, added a real sense of community that usually I would only reserve for a camping festival. The vast majority of people attending SnowGlobe rent from Tahoe, which lends the festival a feeling of a common experience, and I saw little bursts of that feeling throughout the festival, whether it was with my spontaneous festie family, or just seeing regular strangers taking moments to help each other out (S/O to the guys who stood at the bottom of the hill at the main stage to warn people of the black ice on the ground).
The festival moved from the football field to the woods this year, which created a magical winter wonderland kind of vibe to the festival, but also created some issues with sound. Acts that incorporated live instrumentation and vocals seemed to have a much better time getting their sound out to the crowd than the fully electronic sets. Some sets seemed really quiet if you weren’t directly in front of the stage, and since the festival seems to also have increased their capacity this year, getting those prime spots wasn’t always easy this weekend. Bleeding off sound from the Main Stage to the Sierra Stage also threatened the more laid back vibes of some really standout sets over the weekend. Crowding was also an issue this year – just moving around the festival at times was extremely difficult, even when I wasn’t close to either of the larger stages.
The Sierra Stage, which closed the festival both Thursday and Friday night, was nothing short of pandemonium after the main stage closed. With less than half of the capacity of the main stage, diverting the entire festival to the smaller stage seemed like a bad move. Hopefully in the future, one of the stages will be moved back to the football field area to allow more room for a growing crowd to breathe, and to limit the bleeding of noise between the stages.
Food and beverage options were better at SnowGlobe than a lot of festivals I’ve attended, especially for a festival so far away from the nearest major metro. That being said, the single food tent wasn’t lit up properly, and the signage said “Eat Your Feelings”, which is cute, but should have been accompanied by signage clearly stating “Food”. There were two bathroom areas and two water stations, but those were also hard to locate when it got dark. The festivals mobile app did not have a map built into it, which would have helped clear up the confusion.
Finally, there didn’t seem to be any immersion of visual art in the festival, which is a growing trend that I find refreshing in the scene. There was a skiing/snowboarding expo behind the main stage, which was fun to watch in between sets and there was also a tent with comfy spots to relax and get warm – which deserves some bonus points – but that too wasn’t clearly marked. However, the stage production definitely threw down; there were often balls of fire shooting from the sound booth area and stage, fireworks during headlining acts, and confetti and lasers were also a common appearance.
Unfortunately, I hit traffic in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Tahoe (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?), so I was on the road for about twice as long as I could have been; and thus missed out on most of the festivities on Thursday. The Chainsmokers put on an entertaining if not predictable set, covering all of their radio hits, playing some throwback 90s/early 2000s pop and rock, and even acknowledging in front of God and everyone that the “Selfie Song” sucked. Flume put on one of the better sets I’ve seen; there was more energy and more of a live element present than I am used to seeing from him. Unfortunately, a lot of that didn’t translate once I moved back into the crowd, as the sound was pretty quiet towards the outskirts of the main stage. The diaspora to the Sierra Stage for Snails’ set was so chaotic that I skipped it altogether, opting instead for Sofi Tukker at the slightly less packed Igloo Stage. This ended up being my favorite set of the night, between the heated tent and the equally hot jungle inspired house that the duo dealt out to those lucky enough to get a spot.
Friday started off with Foreign Family Collective freshman Chet Porter who played a sunny, chilled out set to an intimate crowd at the Sierra Stage. I stuck around and was captivated by Brasstracks, a Brooklyn duo that packs all the sound of a big band into their sets. One of my favorite things about going to a music festival is inevitably stumbling upon a set that ends up being one of the highlights of your weekend, and Brasstracks was definitely that for me. It was apparent a lot of people in the crowd were in the same boat, as we jumped around to victorious horn remixes of songs like “Weight in Gold” by Gallant and “Ignition” by R. Kelly. The plan was to catch some of Lido‘s set, which members of my crew said was stellar as well, but the grooves had other plans.
The Knocks continued a lucky streak at the Sierra Stage, keeping an elated crowd moving to nu-disco beats as the sun went down over Tahoe. We left early to grab a good spot for festival mainstay Big Gigantic, who did not disappoint with a high energy, funk heavy set at the main stage. Jeremy laid down the beats as Dominic hopped around the stage, working the crowd to old favorites and new hits from A Brighter Future alike. Most of the crowd stuck around for Major Lazer, but we decided to head back to Sierra for the remainder of the evening- Marian Hill managed to draw a sizeable but manageable crowd, and played an impressively sexy set despite some major sound pollution from the main stage, with lead singer Samantha eventually even quipping “Okay, Major Lazer, we get it”, to annoyed laughter in the crowd. Still, the set managed to command attention, and when they did a killer cover of Whitneys “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, we did indeed feel the heat, and sang along, to boot. The finale was a new song, “Back To Me’ , for which the Philly duo brought out special guest Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony fame. After that, we stood our ground for a deserved closing performance by another Foreign Family Collective favorite, Big Wild, who prepared a particularly uptempo mix to shut down the night. Closing the night at Sierra created a pretty wild scene once again, but at least Jackson fed off of the boisterous energy, convincing the crowd with an eclectic mix of new and old content, with some very dance-worthy remixes peppered in.
Rufus Du Sol
I decided to go check out the Igloo stage since I hadn’t spent much time there over the weekend, and caught the end of Cremes N Lotions, a house DJ with a heavy classic hip hop influence. The set ran seamlessly into Clasixx’s DJ Set, a delightful 75 minutes of pure synth, pop, and disco melted into one. I hopped next over to catch the end of Bleep Bloop back at Sierra- which could only be described as some of the bassiest, dirtiest trap I have ever heard- I only stayed for 15 minutes or so, just long enough to very narrowly avoid being barfed upon by a dude who jumped right back into an epileptic dance routine- it was time to head down to the Main Stage and chill out at the Snow Sessions, a one of a kind rap cypher of legendary Bay Area rappers such as Del Tha Funky Homosapien, A-Plus, and Chali Tuna. The only criticism I have of this set is that it wasn’t clear what was happening during the time slot until I got there, and I would have likely missed it had my group not wanted to post up there to get a good spot for the next act.
Baauer, who brought the bass to a whole new level, kept the crowds temperature up as the cold evening set in. We stayed put for a half hour and switched gears just in time for Rufus Du Sol to take the stage. Rufus always absolutely kills it, and this was no exception- the crowd was nothing short of ecstatic as they played an awe-inspiring set. Every time I see Rufus, I’m always so happy to see people witness them for the first time- they are blowing up quickly, so I think I’ll see less and less of that in the years to come, but for now, it’s such a great experience seeing people realize what a powerhouse they are on stage. Sets like this are the reason I go to music festivals- it’s during these moments that I meet the people who I end up staying in touch with after the festival- it’s such an awesome reminder of the power of music. I was able to squeeze my way back to catch a short bit of Illenium at Sierra. If there’s one set I wish I could have seen in full, it would definitely be this one, as the few songs I did catch were powerful, and I was super impressed with his light show, which employed a blanket of lazer beams above the crowd.
Alas, I had to run back for my final show of the night, my all time favorites, indie electronic mammoths Odesza. This show was the Seattle duos last scheduled performance until Memorial Day weekend, when they are slotted to play two nights at Red Rocks. The vibe was heavenly as they churned out jam after jam, seamlessly weaving a new narrative that included some reworked solo material and a couple of brand new songs. They kept the ball-drop moment simple, counting down from five as they played an ethereal remix of Hayden James’ “Something About You”, with an explosion of light and fireworks as the screen displayed the number “2017”. It was a perfect end of a year that has been trying for so many of us, and a perfect clean beginning to 2017. I could have stayed frozen in that moment forever, but the show went on with some of their bigger hits, a performance by the Odesza drumline, and one final get-down: the unreleased remix of Alex Adair’s “Make Me Feel Better”, a departure from their usual dreamy style which has become a staple in Odesza’s live performances. Just like every time I have seen the boys live, I left SnowGlobe feeling happy and sad and in awe and everything in between. There is an intangible phenomena that I experience when that show is replaced with silence. It’s hard to explain, but I can see it in so many of the faces surrounding me, so in a way, no explanation is necessary.
It was a perfect end to a beautiful weekend.
Rufus Du Sol