Rain is pouring down on a sea of fans draped in plastic ponchos. A minor annoyance for some, seemingly unnoticed by others, and thoroughly enjoyed by many of the curious misfits Bassnectar's fan base has become famous for attracting. Self-referred to as "Bassheads", they've journeyed from every nook of the country to gather and pay worship to their wild-haired deity.
By now, it's obvious that no amount of bad weather could dampen their spirit––each drop that falls is taken as some feeble challenge to their collective commitment. And as the soundcheck finishes, the murmur of the crowd grows to a roar. Bassnectar takes the podium, and as if on cue, the rain stops. Church is in session.
This exuberant celebration at the historic Red Rocks venue is centered around the sensually inebriating music of Lorin Ashton, AKA Bassnectar, AKA Bass God, AKA King of the Sound, and has become widely known as the definitive Nectar experience. That says a lot for an artist who regularly tours 11 months at a time, sold out Madison Square Garden (a first for an independent artist), and has built a fabled reputation for his innovative live shows.
Situated 10 miles outside of Denver in the town of Morrison, the otherworldly environs of Red Rocks has long been one of the most coveted stages in all of music ––The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2, Phish, and Coldplay have all graced its cardinal hues. That Bassnectar has made the place so decidedly his own speaks not only to his gargantuan (and fiercely independent) reach as a musician, but also to the depth of the community surrounding his music.
Coloradan cities like Denver and Boulder maintain a deep appreciation for bass music in particular, so when Bassnectar, the unparalleled leader of the scene, ascends upon town to unleash his own hi-tech, wild-style playground - it's to be celebrated. This is Nectar incarnate, controlled chaos amidst an explosion of bass and mind-blowing visuals.
Basshead crews start eagerly showing up as early as 11AM to stake claim on the highly coveted front row pit area, a zone often known among his minions as Bass Front Property. Parking lots become festive, all-day gatherings where hippie culture is proudly on display, flaunted in the form of pins, hats, and tattoos. As lore of this event has spread, regions from all over the country, especially those of small towns, are firmly represented via Bassheads' unyielding dedication to travel for a show.
G-Jones's day one performance kicked things off in sterling fashion, rocking out with a deft mix of hybrid bass and bouncy trap, but the buzz he generated soon faded due to the on-pour of rain and a lackluster set by Joker. While it's fair to wonder how much of this lull was due to the weather, Joker didn't do himself any favors with a surprisingly bland outing. Overall the collection of talent on the undercard rose to the occasion in support of Nectar's bass showcase, and when Day 2 was ushered in by perfect weather, moods were noticeably lifted long before the main course.
Not to get lost in all the hoopla surrounding the man of the hour, this weekend saw the triumphant return of UK dubber Benga, a bass innovator in his own right who has been dormant for nearly two years.
Whether it was the joy of being back in his natural element or the cosmic effect of Red Rocks, Benga's Day 2 set following a noteworthy performance by Son of Kick that was undoubtedly one of the weekend's feel-good highlights. Engaging, vocal, and playful throughout the entirety of his set, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone having more fun than he was.
As for Bassnectar, fans fortunate enough to snag tickets to all three nights were treated to six hours of heavy wobbles. Energy levels were kept at an impossibly high level for majority of the first two nights with fans releasing the pent up anticipation they had held for weeks prior, whereas Sunday Ashton wound things down by leaning on more of the beauty than noise side of the spectrum, dishing a heavier portion of his ambient tunes. Not only does the artist usually unleash a slew of new tunes during his Red Rocks runs, but uses the venue's platform to debut the most scientifically advanced sound system he's ever played on. Legend has it that during one of his famed Red Rocks sets, a blistering dash of bass was so powerful it even cracked one of the natural amphitheatres rocks.
The community Bassnectar has created is a living, breathing, ever-evolving masterpiece. Every whip of his hair serves as another brushstroke. When his woozy, syrupy-thick signature bass drizzles from the sound system, it splatters mana for his masses, who take that energy home with them.
2015 marks the first year Bassnectar at Red Rocks been expanded to a three night affair in its five annual editions, but this event could go for a full week, sell out every night, and still pack the crowd with repeat attendees who maintain the energy of fresh-faced neophytes.The music itself is simply a vessel; the surging, feverish, head-banging crowd it coats is the real-time art he's creating.
These shows are very much church gatherings for those who congregate, just look around and you'll see people everywhere catching the holy ghost. As bass therapy draws to a close and the family pic is snapped, Bassnectar's encore cuts give way to gracious eruptions of applause, and many of these bassheads walk away better than when they came in. Until next time.