Let’s face it: music festivals are a hassle. The tickets are expensive, you have to drive a long way, you have to dress up, you have to wait in line, the food is expensive, you have to stand in crowd of odorous, obnoxious people, it’s dirty, you have to use port-a-potties, and, in the case of SnowGlobe, it is cold as hell. The only reason to put up with them is if the they have quality shows.
SnowGlobe Music Festival takes place at the Tahoe Community College, a cozy location nestled amidst towering pine trees. The drive takes approximately 80 minutes from Reno, winding up mountains. As soon as I parked a grown man with glitter in his beard offered me a swig of lemon-flavored vodka. I obliged.
As I walked closer to the festival-grounds I saw patrons concealing different substances on their persons. It was interesting to see how people incorporated their rave gear into more seasonally-appropriate garb. I saw a group of four boys all wearing Timbs and those tight camo pants. Others wore animal-themed onesies. Others went full-on 80s ski chic, with puffy jackets, neon leggings and headbands. Still, lots of sequins and tie-dye.
After waiting in line, a startlingly personal pat-down (I heard one young woman yell, “he literally touched my pussy!”) and no metal detector we were in the festival. It has a pretty basic setup. There was a big main stage, the Sierra stage stuck off to the side and the Igloo tent in between.
Thanks to climate change, not much snow could be found. Instead, there was a squishy, damp grass which quickly turned to mud as more people walked over it.
Many of the SnowGlobe community brought signs to hold on large sticks to the bereavement of their upper body strength and anyone standing behind them. I saw signs of Winnie the Pooh, Post Malone, several outdated memes, a giant fidget spinner, a pack of Marlboro Reds and a JUUL which read “send pods.” This just in: nicotine is cool again, kids!
SnowGlobe is traditionally an EDM festival. This year’s lineup included Dillon Francis, Porter Robinson and Tycho. Last year attempted a crossover into mainstream hip hop with acts like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, DRAM and Taylor Bennett when it seemed like EDM could take over the world. But if the 2018 Coachella lineup is any indication, EDM’s relevance is on the decline and it’s on it’s way back to be an underground niche. Still, this year had R&B singer Khalid, rapper Travis Scott (both relegated to Friday, that must have been normie day) and E-40.
Khalid put on an entertaining show even though he obviously multi-tracked with pre-recorded vocals. He confidently stalked around the stage like a much more seasoned performer. His live band rocked efficiently. The cheerleader dancers seemed strange but oh well.
Before Travis Scott’s show, a man came out and implored the audience to step back. They were so eager for visceral validation that the front row was getting crushed alive. Eventually, they did back off. Travis Scott’s show fell into the pitfalls to which many current rap shows succumb. He showed up late and left early. He cut many songs off short, mostly because he performed some songs from “Huncho Jack,” but they were left incomplete without his counterpart Quavo. Still, he seemed like he was in a good mood, which is better than some Travis Scott fans can say about experiences with him.
Zedd knows how to put on a show. He’s a people pleaser: he understands no one wants to hear deep cuts or new songs. They just want to hear songs they’ve already heard a million times. Aside from playing his hits, he played such crowd favorites as “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar, “One More Time” by Daft Punk and even “The Legend of Zelda.” His stage and lights were insane.
Joyzu performed on Sunday at 2:30 on the Main Stage. I was lucky enough to sit down with this up-and-coming duo along with vocalist Lilliam Wilde. Joyzu consists of Carson Willms and Quinton Pope. They collaborated with Wilde on “Falling,” “Famous” and they have an unreleased song titled “Strangers.”
Wilms described SnowGlobe as “Super unique, super different, super fun and the music’s always crazy.”
SnowGlobe 2017 was the first time Wilde had ever been to a music festival, and it was also the first time she had met Willms and Pope in person. Joyzu, on the other hand, performed at SnowGlobe the year prior and it turned out to be a landmark in their rise.
“We didn’t have a lot of expectations going into it,” Pope said, “but we started playing and people kept coming. There was like a thousand people there by the time we finished. It was nuts.”
Willms and Pope originally met in middle school. Their passion for throwing parties turned into a passion for writing music. Although they have gone to different colleges, they stay in touch and keep producing.
“The recording process is the hard part,” Pope said. “When you get to perform that’s when everything pays off.”
“Recording can get lonely,” Wilde added. “When you’re onstage you get to interact and see what’s working.”
When asked about their New Year’s Resolutions, Willms said, “We just want to travel more and play more shows and expand our brand.”
Joyzu is set to perform at 1up in Reno on February 23.
The production around the festival was really top notch. For how much I don’t understand EDM, some artists really stand out by truly performing, acting as their own hype men/women and create a spectacle. Alison Wonderland and San Holo come to mind. The SnowGlobe staff also did a good job of sound and shooting video. Nothing is quite as satisfying and uncomfortable as someone’s face projected on the big screen as they attempt to sing along while clearly not knowing the words.
One could put on a tinfoil hat and speculate that the music industry encourages MDMA use or even rebranded it as molly when ecstasy became uncool, leading to the explosion of EDM festivals, because EDM is so simple and cheap to produce and perform. I mean no disrespect to any producers of electronic music, and I believe no music is inferior to any other, but one person standing on the stage hitting play on a computer is simpler than an entire band with instruments. All of the sets at SnowGlobe were just pandering to kids with drugs. It’s bright and loud and colorful.
The whole occasion was a sensory overload, and I was completely sober (besides that shot from the glittered fellow). One thing that surprised me was how dark it was. There was no overhead flood lights and no real city around, so the only light came from the stages. Trying to walk around was disorienting. The bass drops rattled the ground. There were fire dancers. They had an ice ramp where skiers would jump off. Multiple fireworks exploded. There was a space between the two stages where you could hear each’s music simultaneously and it would scramble your brain and you would question what it means to be human. It was all very bizarre.
At night time the place became packed. Crowds of people bumped into each other. Teenagers posed for candid photos, then, upon further review, decided they were not candid enough so they retook them.
Rollers wandered around wide-eyed, gnawing on gum, wringing their hands, snorting Vicks inhalers, chain smoking cigarettes, sucking down Pacificos, dancing, feeling beautiful, euphoric loved, staving off the impending crash. The party never stops at SnowGlobe.
When I went into a food tent to pay $13 for a slice of pizza and a water, people were slumped on the concrete floor, catatonic under the fluorescent lights. It looked like a refugee camp.
I saw people passing out into the mud and others openly weeping. I was walking and a woman in front of me projectile vomited. Her significant other took her off to the side of the trail to vomit in a more convenient place.
By the end, my feet were cold and my back was tired. I felt old and out of touch. I walked back to my car past all of the parents picking up their kids, my head ringing. One memory lingers with me, however, that of standing in the Igloo tent, essentially a hot box, the air thick with weed smoke, and Brasstracks played a rather lovely remix of “Solo” by Frank Ocean with a live trumpet, and it evoked a romantic optimistic future devoid of earthly constraints like genre or gender, where everyone just dances and rides out the creamy MDMA nirvana with no hangover forever.
Even in my cynicism, I cannot deny the beauty of a whole crowd of people jumping, fist bumping and head banging to a great song with a great beat. I do not wish to say that anyone who goes to these festivals or enjoys this type of music is on drugs. Some people just like to dance.
I couldn’t help but notice the SnowGlobe staff frantically scurrying around to pick up litter. Is there anything more indicative of youth than an event where kids come to waste a bunch of money that isn’t there’s and celebrate themselves, selfishly, recklessly, making an enormous mess, taking only Snapchats and leaving only and inordinate amount of trash.
As 2017 came to an end, a year dubbed “the worst year of all time” by lots of people born after 1995, these people grind their teeth in the mud, vibing out to a dying music scene, the millennial’s disco.