Closing out the year with glorious house and techno
I’ve been living in Denver for five months now, but only upon walking into the main hall of the Colorado Convention Center for Decadence did I finally feel like the city had officially become my home.
Following a year of six other adventure-filled music festivals, which included a dazzling revamp of how I present myself and operate in this world, I came to Decadence supercharged with all the upgrades and advancements I made throughout 2018 ready for the finale blow out. And unlike many of those earlier events, the schedule for this one successfully managed to avoid conflicting time slots between virtually all the must-see acts across two main stages.
New Year’s Eve of my last Decadence (2016), the seeds were planted that have grown to define my festing style. It was the first time I went to a festival as my (then-nascent) alter ego Speed Raver and added lights to my outfit (electroluminescent wire spiraling down each arm). It was also the first serious house and techno show I ever experienced, as the progressive stylings of Swedish stalwart Eric Prydz submerged me in a much deeper level of electronic music than I was used to, propelling my tastes straight into the techno dimension.
Prydz returned as the most impressive headliner on the stacked first night of Dec. 30th, bringing my own journey full circle as well. But the night began with more laid-back indie riffs and deep house vibes from Nora En Pure. Most attendees rolled in during the next hour as 1788-L transmitted heavy robot noise beats from the Radius stage. At Vector stage, the duo behind song-of-the-summer “Cola,” Camelphat, crafted a sublime energy of catchy hooks, stimulating vocals and sly transitions leading up to the electro-wavviness of their irresistible hit track.
Anjuna fam soon filled the air with sentimental emotionality as they gathered earnestly for Above & Beyond to lift their spirits with thoughtful messages and melodic trance – though I perked up more for A&B’s occasional deep blasts of dark reverberations. I made my way to a centerpoint in the crowd where my buddy Zach saw me glowing, and we prepared for the epic waves of progressive house and techno that Prince Prydz had in store for us. Jeremy, a friend I made at the fest two years prior, and his group found us as well, and we united closer to the front for the set of the weekend.
There was no Holo production set up, but Prydz’s stage did showcase more depth and dimension than all others at Decadence. Some of his magnificent Holo animations were worked in to accompany his absolutely eye-popping visual show. Musically, he dynamically shifted between exhilarating builds and scintillating progressions. He kept our hearts pounding with a hyperactivate energy that felt like a transcendent exploration through the wildest reaches of the galaxy. Jeremy’s “Dragon Ball Z” outfit emboldened me to initiate Super Saiyan mode – a spiritual whirlwind powered by the ferocious beats, electrifying visuals and my own explosive dance magic. All in all, Eric Prydz delivered one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.
It took me a few minutes after Prydz concluded to step out of the euphoria and recall that the last half hour of Bassnectar was waiting for me at Radius stage. So Zach and I booked it, entering the massive throng of bassheads and bewildering gonzo production, only to discover one of the messier, overly heavy, least appealing Nectar shows I’ve been to. But it was a relief to know we hadn’t missed out on much.
So we came back to the now sparsely populated Vector stage to get weird with Mikey Lion b2b Lee Reynolds. Lots of space and killer grooves provided a refreshing palate cleanser to the Nectar disappointment, and enough fun to pull me aboard the Desert Hearts train once and for all.
Radius stage hosted the more mainstream DJs and packed crowds all night, and we gave it another shot for Zed’s Dead – only to dip five minutes later to catch all of Dirtybird Daddy Claude VonStroke’s fantastically wubby dance party. You can never go wrong with Claude, and this set elicited some of the most joyous and free-spirited vibes from the audience I encountered all Decadence. A Belgian guy’s observation about my colorful, light-emitting presence here really stuck with me too: “When someone is at extremes, it makes everyone else feel more comfortable.”
Closing out the Radius stage was a galvanizing throwback we’ve barely seen the last four years – the dubstep kid himself, Skrillex. He brought back the defining dubstep tracks we all remember and mixed a pretty heavy trap set. My tastes have grown beyond most of that genre, but I’m happy to report Skrilly still throws down a wicked time regardless. He ended the night with reflective words that brought everyone together through a theme of hope, kindness and taking care of each other in the new year, which had a surprisingly potent effect coming from him.
Bringing in 2019 with funky friends and groovy Griz
After a full night’s rest, I came back for NYE with less of a schedule agenda and more of a mission for Speed Raver to cultivate some notable creative connections and friendships. Day one was more about the lineup, while day two had more time slots ideal for celebrating with friends and exploring. The last few hours of the second night offered ample opportunity for immersion and appreciation of the absorbing art installations, VR music game and of course the silent disco.
Walker & Royce opened up the evening at 6:30, a.k.a too early for most people. A steady stream started arriving continuously by the time Anti Up (Chris Lake & Chris Lorenzo’s new team-up project) took the stage and pumped out a bouncing tech-house set that ignited the night with vibrant energy. They occasionally mixed in some underwhelming pop music, but a healthy share of Chris Lake’s staple bangers, plus some twists and surprises, always revs my engine. I hope to see these two together more this year.
My crew met up at the start of Illenium to plan our night and noticed the abundance of Illenium jerseys scattered through the crowd. There seems to be a big following in Denver since he lives here, but about ¾ of Illenium’s songs fall into the sector of EDM I consider “too light, airy and overrated by the youngins.” So I wandered around in my full light-up supersuit meeting some other characters of the dancefloor at this point until running into Mike, my best friend in Denver, on my way to the next set.
I commented on how he and his girlfriend Olga were dressed so nice, to which he responded, “Yeah, we got married today at the courthouse.” This put me in a BIG ecstatic mood and I brought the dance party to them in the middle of the audience for Amsterdam duo The Him.
My crew of Denver comrades all linked up before Griz and ventured into the middle of the crowd for his funktastic ball-drop set. The vibes were ALL GOOD, baby, electric soul and grooves rippling through the convention center, setting a beautiful tone to launch 2019. The whole event ran super smoothly in every regard, and my friend SamBam, a local Decadence veteran, said it was by far the best ball drop out of all six years she’d gone.
Living it up with a whole crew of my Denver friends, experiencing Denver icon Griz, and sharing such a beautiful start to the new year together truly solidified my feeling of being home here. I can’t wait for what 2019 brings.