Side by side on the seats of Red Rocks, next to strangers that don’t feel much like strangers anymore, the bass extends past your ears and into your chest, heart, and soul. You can’t help but move your arms, legs and entire body with the beat as you feel like you are blending into the music. The lasers memorize you visually, connecting all senses together in a sensory overload—but the good kind. And in that moment, how you and the beat interact is all the matters, normal life is washed away.
This experience is why electronic music in Northern Colorado has exploded over the last decade, and why Fort Collins and Denver are meccas for beats, bass, and electronic music culture.
With electronic DJs that have laid out the road for success and have come together to create a kingdom of music-makers and culture starters, Fort Collins has been climbing the entrepreneurial ladder of the all-things electric before sold out ampitheaters were a common reality for the sub-genre of electronic DJs, house performers, glitch mob-ers, dubstep artists and digital sampling.
Although mega-festivals like Electronic Daisy Festival, with numbers reaching 3 million have been on the radar since the first EDC in 1997—the Colorado electronic culture has grown rapidly since 2009, when Fort Collins local, Derek Vincent Smith, also known by his stage name Pretty Lights, brought Northern Colorado into this map, in a colossal way.
The Rocky Mountain High school alum started the label Pretty Lights Music which has brought Fort Collins on the global map for digital production. With seven Colorado-based artists signed to it, this single label is a leading force in the Colorado Scene. Pretty Lights started his career performing at Chippers Lanes, while still at RMHS, until he worked up to performing at the Mishawaka. Now, he sells out double nights of Red Rocks, 1st Bank Center, and has performed at virtually all of the music festivals nation wide—and some internationally.
Gramatik, Michal Menert, Paul Basic, Break Science, SuperVision and new addition, Elliot Lipp make up the Pretty Lights Music label. Glitchy hip hop beats, and digital sampling create many new-generation electronic music sounds that are becoming increasingly popular among all music stages, including the mainstream stage.
Big Gigantic, the saxophone infused live-tronica and electric beat duo are Boulder, Colorado natives, and Savoy, the electronic, laser infused show-stopper started at CU Boulder. Yet, not only are many headlining acts from Colorado: the culture has been infused throughout the music starting from the Flatirons to the Foothills.
Nick Guarino, a CU Boulder recent graduate is the creator of the mega-site This Song Is Sick which was established in 2010. The site (thissongissick.com) is a collaborative electronic music site featuring mixes, remixes, EP’s, conversation, and a platform for music exploration and artist showcasing their electronic, bass, hip-hop, indie, or up-and-coming genre talent. The site reaches over 110 countries, and millions of music explorers—for free.
This, and multi-media, user based projects such as #plpix, Pretty Lights instagram focused photography project lets fans showcase their visual appeal for the parts of the electronic genre that aren’t audio: the positive feelings, the fresh beats and the creative vibes are showcased through re-mastered photos.
This season, a number of electronic-based music nights fled through the Front Range including Hard Music Festival, which showcased Diplo, Knife Party, Discolosure, Flosstradamus; Global Dance Festival, showcasing Beats Antique, Eoto, Emancipator, Griz, MiMOSA, Kill Paris, and many more. These were both three day events at Red Rocks that were both sold out—showing the popularity of these types of lasers, lights, bass and beat shows. Other festivals such as Snowball and dozens and dozens of sold out massive shows reiterate the exploding nature of electronic popularity.
Northern Colorado is home to the majestic Rocky Mountains, sprawling open spaces, awe-bearing Flatirons, breath-taking Horsetooth, and with these wonderful natural areas, comes a culture of innovation and enjoyment.
The electronic Colorado music scene has become an embedded part of the culture in the region. Whether you enjoy bumping beats or not, it is hard to deny the excitement in response to the positive leaps being made by Colorado electronic-based artists, and the culture surrounding it.
“I’m from where the fat beats stretch for mad blocks” – Pretty Lights