There is a particular moment that sticks out in my memory – It was a few minutes before the New Year. Odesza was playing ‘Bloom' with a live drum line on the main stage. The percussion rang out through what seemed to be my entire body. It was cold, obviously…as cold as it almost always is in South Lake Tahoe during late December. Lights danced off the surrounding tress, making them seem almost artificial as their outlines were accentuated by shadows. The clean, cold mountain air mixed with pine making for a scent that was as welcoming as it was intense. Every sense was being triggered in the moment – to an overwhelming extent. Time seemed to slow and that is when it hit me. SnowGlobe is not your average festival experience. It is a cruel mistress of a festival – one that is as intense and grueling as it is beautiful and awe inspiring. I feel everyone at some point over the weekend had one of these ‘SnowGlobe Moments'…when I had mine I realized that there was truly no place I would rather be ringing in of the New Year.
Let's rewind a few days though to the beginning of the festival. South Lake Tahoe for those who don't know is relatively high in elevation – and in the winter that means two things: cold and snow. While the weather was more mild than it has been in year's past, snow was on the ground and a chill was in the air. So things were not any different than the status quo of the New Year's Eve weekend. Getting to SnowGlobe was a breeze, the festival had shuttle buses running a circuit every half hour and there were also parking options ranging from a 10 to 30 minute walk from the entry. Walkways were cleared perfectly of any ice or snow and bathrooms were placed strategically along the way to the entrance. One of my few critiques of the fest is that things were a bit unorganized earlier in the day on Thursday and Friday getting into the main entrance. A large line went into a cattle shoot where a handful of tables for security pat downs were found. There were no barriers differentiating lines leading up to the tables so things got chaotic. Luckily within a few hours clear lines were differentiated, as well as an actual independent festival exit. It was brilliant how quickly staff fixed this as soon as they saw it was a problem.
Friday was an incredible day, the warmest of the three with a beautifully strong line up that incredibly had no clear conflicts for myself. Arriving in the grounds around 5 o'clock there was one thing on my mind – RL Grime. The set up of the festival with expanded grounds was excellent. Even with relatively compact grounds in terms of music festivals, the sound bleed from stages was managed very well. So when RL Grime literally exploded from the main stage it was not interrupted by the two other side stages. There were a few IDs thrown into his powerful set, getting the crowd even more excited for his album dropping in 2017. Next up were The Chainsmokers. It seemed like every person in South Lake Tahoe attended their set. It was packed, but that being said I got to see one of the more dynamic positives of SnowGlobe. Even when the main stage was packed to the brim, it seems you could have a clear view of the stage from several angles. An incline heading away from the main stage towards the side stages also helped those of us who are vertically challenged.
I ran over to the Sierra stage, the larger of the two side stages to see a personal favorite, Whethan. The set was, dynamic and better than I could have ever expected. It is so incredible to see an artist live after listening to them for so long. It is always fun to see which surprise songs they mix in. You get a taste of their personal preference and understand what makes them tick as an artist. After Wethan finished up it was time to head back to the main stage for Flume. Flume won both artist of the year and album of the year in our editor poll for 2016. It was the third time I was seeing him since the release of ‘Skin' so I was a bit tentative that he might play a set that I have already seen. Lucky for me Flume showed his range, and his set was mixed up and changed around to create an awe inspiring 95 minutes.
Friday arrived and the grounds clearly had suffered from the night before. The day time temperature had risen above freezing a bit so the packed snow which served as the ground had melted into deep puddles in some spots. While SnowGlobe did warn attendees that this would happen, in some areas around the main stage it became a bit much. Having had to sit down with Big Wild for an interview earlier in the day I was not able to make the earlier sets of the day and arrived to the grounds at 5 o'clock. I had 30 minutes to spare and enjoyed some of the food that SnowGlobe offered. Their famous Pad Thai was beyond incredible and the wood fired mac n cheese was as good as it was giant in portion size. Having warmed up from the food it was time to hit the cold again at the main stage for Lido. He performed a dynamic live set that is one I will not be forgetting any time soon. It was chilled down and intimate while still having the presence to captivate a main stage audience.
Attendance seemed to double as Big Gigantic was setting up. The massive crowd was not let down by the duo who played so much fire, the slopes of Heavenly could have melted. On the topic of fire I need to mention that whoever was sending out the push notifications via the SnowGlobe app is absolutely incredible. The notifications were sometimes simple as ‘miss you already' but always put a smile on my face. It is small touches like this that can make a festival a memorable experience, the music will always be good but a personal touch like this is what really ties things together. Big Wild was next on the bill and after speaking with him earlier in the day his live performance took on an entirely new depth of meaning. He is an enigma of sorts, a modest, relaxed individual on a conversational level then a stunningly powerful atmospheric performer. His name is perfect as his music can only be related to the wild expanses of NorCal. It was the perfect way to end the day.
The final day was the coldest of them all but also most impressive in terms of line up. I got on site early and luckily the ground conditions from day two had been taken care of and deep puddles existed. This again was something outstanding about SnowGlobe…their ability to adapt and make the experience better each day. I headed over to the Igloo side stage which I had not yet checked out. Cremes n Lotions were throwing down a frenzied set to a sparse crowd that were enjoying the playful energy. Next up were Classixx and man oh man did they bring it. Classixx decided to mess around and almost kill half the crowd from excitement when they played out Bingo Players – ‘Cry Just a Little' into MK‘s Dub Edit of Storm Queen's ‘Look Right Through', into Duke Dumont's ‘Need U', and finally into their classic – ‘All You're Waiting For'. The energy during that series of tracks was legendary. It was a beautifully sculpted set that built up excitement to a fever pitch before returning the audience back to earth.
I was devastated to learn that Hotel Garuda was moved until later in the night but luckily half of the duo, Manilla Killa, took over their spot at the Sierra Stage. Charlie Tuna of Jurassic 5 rocked out the main stage for snow sessions and Manilla Killa brought on Jai Wolf for a borderline reckless set at Sierra. It was powerful. That being said, it was getting cold though, brutally cold. The kind of cold that consider hand warmers a cute attempt at defeating it. Lucky for us Rufus Du Sol brought some Australian sunshine to the main stage for an hour long set that was the perfect lead up to the stage closing duo – Odesza. It seemed fitting that the two would ring in the new year and ultimately close out the festival as it seemed that Foreign Family had a lock on SnowGlobe 2016, and rightly so after being named our label of the year in our 2016 Editor Poll.
As I stated in the beginning, Odesza brought together all the themes of SnowGlobe beautifully throughout their set. They played all of the fan favorites and more IDs than I could count. It is clear that Odesza will be dropping a new album in 2017. The inclusion of a live drum line in many of their songs was incredible, it was a beautiful way to end 2016, as it was easily the best set I had seen that year. As the played their remix of Hayden James' ‘Something About You' the countdown commenced and as the track dropped, the date turned over and fireworks filled the sky. SnowGlobe is one of the most unique festival experiences in America. It not only pushes your body to the limit in terms of the weather and temperature but weaves in one of the most impressively curated line ups we have ever seen. As you get cold to the point of where you want to leave, all of a sudden another act that cannot be missed will take the stage. SnowGlobe is an all encompassing sensory experience. If you love electronic music you absolutely must attend it at least once.