The Scene: Bassnectar roared into Red Rocks Amphitheater last weekend for two nights of mayhem and the result was nothing less than extraordinarily well organized chaos. This marked the 3rd straight year that Bassnectar has blasted the rocks and this years’ performance nearly matched that of the infamous 2011 show that saw authorities fine Lorin and his staff $100,000 dollars for violating the city noise ordinance. As a testament to the respect that other artists have for Bassnectar and what that show meant to electronic music at the time, musicians from across the world pitched in to help pay the fines. That show featured Bassnectar’s own speakers and was easily the loudest concert I’ve ever witnessed. That’s not to say this show wasn’t booming, it just didn’t shatter any eardrums this time. After a solid but slight letdown performance in 2012, this year featured the best collection of openers to date including masterful performances from A-Trak and DJ Shadow and thrilling sets from Treasure Fingers, Thriftworks, Tokimonsta and Two Fresh.
When we arrived in the lower south lot, Red Rocks was alive in a sea of young, colorfully clad Dub-Step fans and a refreshing contingent of older Bassheads eager to see Lorin Ashton return to his roots. What we received were two unique performances that will be remembered for years to come.
Opener Night 1: A-Trak. A-Trak delivered a solid-mixture of House and Trap music that had the crowd hyped early on Friday evening. I’ve never been a fan of artists who engage in intense self-promotion on stage so the constant vocal of “Fools Gold,” A-Trax’s own record label, became pretty irritating after awhile. At the same time, A-Trak is an incredibly talented DJ whose mixing abilities are some of the best in the business and he delivered enough scratching to the turn the crowd energy up a few notches. If you ever get the chance to see this guy I highly recommend it because he throws one awesome party.
Opener Night 2: DJ Shadow. The venerable DJ Shadow delivered the final opening set at Saturday’s show and he ignited the crowd just in time for Bassnectar. Interestingly, the show began with a slight jab against other artists at the event. About 2 songs in, he killed the music and shouted into the mic: “there’s no laptop on this stage,” Following this, Shadow threw down an awesomely varied and laptop free set that included a wicked turn on the electronic drum pad and plenty of classic 45s. The highlight of the set came with “Organ Donor,” the classic track off his1996 album Endtroducing. It was refreshing to see such a classic set on the Red Rocks stage.
Bassnectar: Playing two nights in front of a raucous crowd of loyal Bassheads from across the country, Lorin Ashton delivered two mind blowing sets full of intense high definition visuals and plenty of wicked remixes to keep the kids entertained. This year featured Bassnectar’s “diamond cutter” sound rig that added 20 subwoofers to his already stellar sound works. Needless to say this had The Rocks shaking throughout the weekend and my ears and face are still feeling the pain.
The first night was a Trap heavy set that saw the longtime electronic maestro dive into a new playful sound by mashing up Hip-Hop; Dub-Step and Grime into an intense 2-hour performance. The highlights of night one were “Timestretch,” “Backwards,” and a blissful rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Perhaps the most awe inspiring moment of the weekend occurred early on during “Falling” as gorgeous images of sky divers falling effortlessly from the sky played over and over on the monitors. Looking around at this moment revealed a plethora of wide eyes, cheesy grins and melted faces. As is typical with most Bassnectar shows, the music flows perfectly together and never quits until the end of the show. Before I knew it we were departing the venue in anticipation of a 2nd night of pandemonium.
Although a lot of the fans were overwhelmed with the feel and style of night one, the second performance is where I thought Bassnectar really took off and soared high above the rocks. From a dreamy take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to a quick jaunt into rave territory with Crystal Castles and Hip-Hop with “Day and Night” by Kid Cudi, the remixes came hard and fast throughout the set. With an incredible variety of interludes and special sequences including a stint with luscious rose petals and the enigmatic voice of Kevin Spacey from American Beauty, Bassnectar knows how to crush and overwhelm his audience with organized noise.
Even for those for don’t appreciate bass music, its impossible not to appreciate the passion and immense beauty that comes out whenever Bassnectar takes the stage. It looks like we can now look forward to this being an annual ritual on The Rocks. I can’t wait until the mountain of bass blossoms again next spring.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: A+