Please let the record show that South Lake Tahoe is cold in December. Really cold. But it had been unusually warm during the day, so much of the ground-level snow melted to create the right conditions for an icy festival grounds at Lake Tahoe Community College during the SnowGlobe Music Festival (December 29-31, 2016 – I was only able to cover the first two nights).
By day two, organizers shoveled in mounds of mulch to mitigate the huge puddles that formed near the main stage. Surprisingly, most festivalgoers didn’t seem to mind the cold. I even saw two men wearing shorts at night despite the below-freezing temperatures. In fact, many took the festival as an opportunity to dress up in ’80s-era track suits, onesies, and jerseys (though no hardcore T-Rex costumes), none of which looked remotely warm.
All the booze seemed to heat them up; there was a consistent line to buy shots of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. I must be getting old because I wore multiple layers of wool and I still felt cold. No, I wasn’t imbibing. And no, I wasn’t dancing alongside everyone else, which probably didn’t help my cause.
Unfortunately for many of the artists, gloves aren’t a beneficial wardrobe requirement for keyboarding, so many of them had to brave the cold with exposed hands in order to properly play. Talk about for love of the craft.
While the festival lineup itself looked small, there was hardly any time when music wasn’t flowing at one of the three stages (two outdoor stages and one tent). In addition, most artists performed hour-long sets, which significantly differed from the generally shorter sets at other festivals. It was refreshing to see and hear lengthy performances rather than just a seemingly abrupt random mix of songs.
As with a lot of electronic dance music today, remixes and mashups dominated the soundspace, with a lot of the artists putting a different spin on the songs that inspired them. Los Angeles-based RL Grime performed remixes of La Roux (“In for the Kill”) and Flume‘s “Never Be Like You” (featuring Kai), who would perform the same song later that night. Norwegian artist Lido reworked Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” And duo The Knocks remixed a bunch of their own songs including “Classic” and “Dancing with the DJ.”
The Chainsmokers, currently one of the biggest acts, remixed bits of Blink 182, The Killers, Kiss, Passion Pit, Puff Daddy and Mase, and Tove Lo. The American DJ duo played a Kungs remix of Cookin’ on 3 Burners’ “This Girl” and although there is some ambiguity on who they exactly they were referring to, they apparently quickly ended it by ripping into how much they hated their own original song “#Selfie” while wagging a certain finger in the air.
One perk of watching DJs live at the main stage is the visual show, either from an elaborate music and lighting equipment setup or the digital imagery that gets projected up on the big screen. At SnowGlobe, it was an additional thing to help distract you from the cold. Lido bounced between drums and keyboards during his set. Big Gigantic had the best on-screen imagery associated with its set, including a cat with red laser beams shooting out of its eyes like Cyclops from the X-Men.
The most enjoyable acts were the ones that counterbalanced those who could be consistently heard on the radio. Soloist Gavin Turek brought disco back with her infectious dancing and singing with her new single “Fade Out” (with Viceroy), “Frontline” (with TOKiMONSTA), and the set’s closing song, “Grace.” Head bopping to New York-based duo Sofi Tukker‘s oft-described jungle-pop was almost instinctual on the Grammy-nominated “Drinkee.”
Brooklyn-based duo Brasstracks (“Say U Won’t) and Big Gigantic (“No Apologies” and new single “I Got Enough”) unleashed some respective jazz and funk-infused electronic dance sounds, and the former even joined BG on stage to jam for a bit.
Portland-based duo Echos had a stripped-down emotive vibe on ballads like “Stay” and “Haunt” (rare for an EDM festival), but they picked it up significantly on “Afterlife.” Philadelphia native Marian Hill soothed the crowd with its electronic and R&B blend on “One Time” and “Lips.” Lead singer Samantha Gongol belted out a ballad cover of Whitney Houston‘s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” before ending with the first live performance of “Back to Me” with special guest Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony.
SnowGlobe makes sense as a New Year’s Eve celebration with many goers using it to play hard for one last time before the year’s end. Sure, they’ll probably play hard again on New Year’s Day given it falls on a Sunday (with an official Monday observance), but that’s not the real point. You have to put everything in the past aside and look forward as best you can.
As Gavin Turek best put it, “2017 will be the best year ever.”
Note: All photos taken by author.