Photos by Fred Sobottka
I typically find myself spending my New Year’s celebrations on my couch where I typically pass out around 10PM. When you are out until midnight nearly every night due to concerts, staying up that late when you don’t have a show is torture. As nice as it always feels to actually get some sleep, I decided this year was going to be different. I would not be ringing in the New Year with a frozen pizza and my cats. I was going to ring in the New Year at a concert– the same way I spend majority of the rest of my year. That’s how I found myself at Snowta Saturday night and will find myself there again tonight.
After mooching a ride from my photographer, we made our way through the skyway system from the parking lot to the Minneapolis Convention Center. We watched from the warmth of the skyway as teens and twenty-somethings bolted through the -30 windchill (no, I’m not exaggerating) wearing next to nothing. It was then that I realized just how much of an “event” this was. Sure, I knew the line-up was amazing (hell, that’s why I signed up to cover it) but I didn’t realize just how big of a deal this would be. After standing in the long line to get our press credentials, it was off to the races.
I walked into the maze of halls and rooms and was absolutely stunned by just how enormous this festival is. Although I was there for the music, I was quickly distracted by everything else going on around me. Instead of wandering from stage to stage and taking in all of the music I could, I instantly found myself watching the human bowling. I watched as people climbed into a giant inflatable ball and tried to run at the pins set up at the end of a inflated track. Although some were able to do it, it was much more satisfying to watch the people fail and end up rolling back to the start without even touching a pin. After a couple of fails and a couple of strikes, I continued my journey to finally get to a stage but, again, was stopped by the indoor skatepark that had been set up. Bikers and skateboarders were taking their turn at the park doing impressive runs down ramps and over rails. Beyond the human bowling and the skatepark, there were people everywhere. Some of them had light up hula hoops, some with light up gloves, all of them with a smile on their faces. As if this wasn’t enough, the Gray Duck stage was also in this room and had smoke and lights shooting off the stage creating a whole experience. All of this and only one room. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.
After getting my skateboard fix, I made my way back into the main hall and into the next room. This stage was even bigger and more impressive than the Gray Duck stage. My goal was to get my bearings and keep wandering before really taking in any music but the act on the main Snowta stage had me caught. As I made my way through the sea of people, I found a spot right up next to stage and watched in awe as Joyryde commanded the thousands of people in the crowd without staying a word. Full disclosure- I’m not an EDM kid. Never have been and probably never will be but Joyryde had me questioning all of my life choices. The bombing bass and the beats that made you want to jump with the rest of the massive crowd had me experiencing something I had never experienced before in my life. My plan to play the role of a fly on the wall was quickly exchanged with a plan of getting lost in the crowd and having the time of my life. Joyryde’s hour long set flew by and, when it was said and done, I realized that there were still more stages and rooms that I had to check out.
Apparently, when walking into the main stage room, I completely missed the giant ramp that was set up. As if an indoor skatepark wasn’t cool enough, they had indoor snowboarding (minus the snow– honestly, not sure how it worked but it worked). I watched as snowboarders clipped their boots into the boards and went down the ramps doing tricks on the rails that were set up at the bottom. After completely losing track of time, I was ready to wander back into the hall to find another room, Ookay was striking up on the main stage. I went back to my spot near the side of the stage and watched in awe as people jumped and bounced to the beat.
All of this writing and I’ve barely touched on the music. I apologize. There were many highlights of the night but my favorite act that I saw was definitely Bear Grillz. He came out onto the Gray Duck stage wearing a bear costume which included a giant bear head. Although the type of music of this festival is not my typical cup of tea, I loved the energy of Bear Grillz and, with lyrics about banging your head, there’s no way I couldn’t love it. Although he was on the smaller stage, the energy in the room was not lacking during his set and, much like Joyryde, I found myself lost in a sea of people completely losing myself in the music.
Gucci Mane was another stand out act for me. Often noted as a godfather of trap music, Jessica (fellow concert addict and photographer for Twin Cities Media) told me this was a “can’t miss set” and she was right. Much like the other acts, I was stunned by how easily Gucci Mane was able to captivate the thousands of people in front of the stage. He powered through his set with a sense of energy that you just don’t get from the little club shows that I typically find myself at. His style of trap music was a nice change of pace from the EDM and techno overload that I was experiencing but it also didn’t come out of left field. The music still fit the party atmosphere and the high energy kept the night feeling fresh and early.
Closing out last night was Pretty Lights. I was instantly in love with this group due to the fact that they had a live band (which was a very rare, if not non-existent thing last night). Aside from the great electronic music that made you want to move and groove with the strangers around you, Pretty Lights’ set was full of just that– pretty lights. The light show was incredible and made it so much more than just a show- it made it an experience. With the light whizzing and spinning around the giant room and the visual of the entire crowd jumping together, I stood off to the side with a smile on my face. Although not quite my scene, Snowta is proving to be a much better way of spending my New Year celebrations than sitting on the couch.
My journey continues tonight. Maybe I’ll actually get to the other side rooms and figure out where the laser tag is!
From everyone here at Twin Cities Media- We hope you have a happy and safe New Years!