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SnowBall Music Festival: A makeshift urban playground in the heart of Denver

Live painting from Denver street artists at SnowBall Music Festival.
Live painting from Denver street artists at SnowBall Music Festival.Live painting from Michael Ortiz at SnowBall Music Festival. (Photo by Kaitlyn Curtin)

SnowBall Music Festival 2014 wrapped up on Sunday April 6 to the funky sounds of GRiZ. The producer/musician born Grant Kwiecinski, accompanied with special guests, closed down the main stage with a massive dance party.

Only days after SnowBall's finale, fans are already missing and reflecting on the eventful festival weekend. In fact, SnowBall is still sharing photos on Facebook, on Tuesday the #Snowball Day Three gallery was released.

SnowBall in the city was definitely a unique experience, very different from it's usual takeover of small mountain towns in the Rockies. In contrast, SnowBall felt very small and intimate in it's new setting in the parking lot of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. An area often used by the popular Vans Warped Tour.

SnowBall appeared to have attracted a much smaller crowd than what is typically seen at the annual punk festival or at previous SnowBalls. In fact, the festival layout in the parking lot didn't allow enough space for an adequately-sized main stage area.

The first stage after entering was the SnowBall main stage, which had a small grassy area that was cut short by the sound board. For future festivals it would be advised to either move the sound board and vendor booths further back to or turn the stage so it faces west and opens up a larger dance floor.

For the smaller Sunday crowd the space seemed adequate, but for the popular Saturday night headlining set from Pretty Lights the crowd struggled to fit, causing some uncomfortable moments.

The placement of the restrooms all in one area at the front of the venue didn't make too much sense either. It would have been a good idea to separate the porta-potties, half in the front and half in the diagonal corner by the Groove Tent.

On the contrary, the way the festival grounds were arranged made it feel intimate, which can rarely happen with many of these big headliners, including Knife Party, Pretty Lights, GRiZ, Busta Rhymes and Yeasayer, to name a few. Those who went with a crew could easily find friends, at least during the daylight hours.

The festival felt like an urban playground with a mixture of Denver's cultures and generations. Artistic expression in the form of graffiti art on a zig-zag line of walls was definitely a highlight. Denver has some very talented graffiti artists, attendees could witness their unique and colorful artwork come to life during the weekend. SnowBall commissioned Denver's Chris Haven and Josh Nelson of Secret Skwadron, as well as some other impressive street artists.

The fire performers in the fenced off area near the food trucks was a sight to see, as well as the participatory chalk art decorating the pavement at the Heat Hut.

Sierra Nevada and their partners offered happy hour deals, the first hour of the festival drinks were $1 and then increased by $1 every hour, never going higher than $4. The typical mixed drink came in at $5, not bad at all. Don't think anyone can complain about those endless happy hour deals. Affordable drinks are hard to come by in the city, especially at concert venues.

As with every festival, SnowBall had its ups and downs, but to many it was so convenient how accessible the venue was. It's a lot more difficult to book a condo in the mountains and find transportation to and from the festival in freezing temperatures. The Denver location allowed for the spontaneous fan to buy a ticket last minute with no hassle.

Finally, the most important part of a music festival - the music - and discovering new artists. Below is a list of artist recommendations that were revealed during the three-day festival.

Wild Belle
Wild Belle Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Wild Belle

Brother-and-sister duo Elliot and Natalie Bergman make up the Chicago band Wild Belle. Their style blends reggae, folk, dance, psychedelic rock and indie pop.

Their debut album "Isles" was released in March of 2013, it draws from influences of reggae, soul and jazz.

Two of four children, Elliot and Natalie grew up in a house full of music. Elliot studied jazz saxophone at the University of Michigan.

In 2006 Natalie toured as a backup vocalist and percussionist in Elliot's afro-pop band, NOMO. A year later they broke off on their own to become Wild Belle. 

At SnowBall their set was happy and relaxed, the crowd smiled as the sun finally shone through the heavy clouds. Natalie's voice was entrancing and unique, gracefully pulling the audience into her songs. 

Turner Jackson
Turner Jackson Turner Jackson

Turner Jackson

Turner Jackson is a Colorado-based, New York-bred MC, ready to spread his positive messages. 

As Jackson says, "Music is about sharing thoughts and sending energy to another person. I am responsible for the message in my music, whether it’s that of destruction or positive impact.”

Jackson's EP "Black Electric Love" features some of his favorite EDM and hip-hop artists and producers including Dynohunter. Clark Smith from Dynohunter joined Jackson for his SnowBall set, along with Lily Fangz

A highlight of the set was the uplifting collaboration, "I Love You World." 

RÜFÜS DU SOL
RÜFÜS DU SOL RÜFÜS DU SOL press photo

RÜFÜS DU SOL

RÜFÜS DU SOL all the way from Sydney, Australia create their own brand of indie dance music. 

The trio started three years ago during a rainy night in Byron Bay, Australia. Jon, James and Tyrone are a DIY band and are gaining popularity through their world tours. They actually had to change their name from RÜFÜS due to an existing U.S. trademark on the name. 

RÜFÜS DU SOL have released two EPs on their own label. Their debut record "ATLAS," currently available in Australia and New Zealand, is due for a world wide release mid-2014. The album debuted at #1 on the Australian charts. Their debut U.S. single "Desert Night" is available now. 

The Aussie's set at SnowBall was a pleasant surprise, very funky and fun for the crowd gathered around the Ballroom Tent. It seemed to take many by surprise, a band that could be added to several top act lists. 

SunSquabi
SunSquabi SunSquabi press photo

SunSquabi

SunSquabi, based out of Boulder, Colorado, is a three-piece "electronic hydro-funk experience." The group created by guitarist/producer Kevin Donohue, bassist Andrew Clymer and drummer Chris Anderson delivers dance-worthy and progressive live sets. 

They incorporate electronic elements with their musical roots, which includes funk and blues.They have played all over the United States and tend to frequent the music festival scene. 

You can download their album "Fundamental Interaction" at Bandcamp where it's offered as a "name your price" release. 

SunSquabi played an early set on the main stage on Saturday, but were also found playing the Groove Tent later that day, perhaps filling in for a no-show. They seemed to attract a decent-sized crowd and definitely have a local following.