Gearing up for its third year in the rockies, SnowBall Music Festival is set to bring the heat to Winter Park, Colorado this March 8,9, and 10. With a lineup featuring local, national, and international acts, SnowBall easily rivals some of the world’s storied weekenders and is as good a reason as ever to kick off another Friday early and head up to the mountains if you’re one of the lucky ones that calls Colorado home. We caught up with Latane Hughes, one of the talent buyers for the festival, to get the 411 on the history of SnowBall, what to expect this year, and who will dominate Winter Park that first wondrous weekend of March.
So, SnowBall—Colorado’s finest outdoor winter music festival! What can we expect in Winter Park this year?
We are very excited for Winter Park. It’s only an hour away from Denver, so it is easier for everyone from the city to attend than the last two years of SnowBall, which was 2.5 hours away from Denver. However, it is still has the same ski-mountain vibe and is easy to get to from all the other great towns surrounding the Denver area. Lodging is more available and cheaper as well. The site is bigger and gives us more freedom. Everybody wins!
What’s your personal involvement with the festival?
I am the talent buyer for the festival. I am aided heavily by Scotty Soughton, Brett Rowley, and most importantly the festival owner/founder Chad Donnelly. We all honestly enjoy the process and everyone from our office pitches in with ideas and gives their opinions, and all three years we have walked away with some fun and unique festival lineups.
What have the last few SnowBall festivals been like, and when and how did it all start?
It started with Chad wanting to start a festival experience in the mountains that was connected to winter sports but still maintained a very music-focused agenda. I told him I would help him if he put every piece together and all that was needed was to book the bands. Somehow, he did. So in 2011, we booked a bunch of bands and DJs to play in the snow, and now here we are!
Who is playing?
About 45 artists. I’m pretty excited for the variety, as always. We have some big electronic acts like Pretty Lights and Porter Robinson, some fun rock bands like Portugal. The Man and Robert Randolph, some quality hip-hop like Kendrick Lamar and Zion I, some heady electronic stuff like Flying Lotus and TEED, some great indie rock stuff like Tennis and Polica, and some solid house DJs like Aeroplane and Orchard Lounge. Tons of great local acts as well! Always love seeing the local submissions.
This year has a mighty lineup as far as dance music is concerned. How did you go about programming the line-up between live acts and DJs/producers? Did the massive explosion of dance music have any influence on your bookings from last year?
We actually feel like we have kept the ratio of live acts vs. DJs pretty consistent since year one. We’ve never really aimed to be an electronic festival; we just book a variety of music we feel is the best suited for this environment. It gets cold! For instance, I love Beach House but I don’t think they would ever work at SnowBall, as it’s just music that isn’t making you move a ton, and movement is necessary when it’s March in the outdoors of Colorado. We definitely love dance music top to bottom, though, and do our best to bring all genres of dance music to Colorado. We’ve brought everything from Zeds Dead to Wolf + Lamb. I particularly enjoy putting some fresh sounds in the dance tent wedged in between some Colorado festival favorites so that I know some of these dance-tent kids will be forced to be exposed to other electronic genres other than just electro or bass music. For instance, this year, I am excited to see how Aeroplane is received when he is wedged between Michal Menert and Flosstradamus. I think he is going to blow some kids’ minds wide open and show them that putting your hands in the air isn’t the only form of enjoying dance music.
What are the extra challenges and conveniences of staging an event like SnowBall in a resort town like Winter Park?
Challenges include making sure the festival isn’t inconveniencing the people who are in the resort town on vacation and looking to relax. Loud music and young people usually aren’t what resort vacationers are excited about. Luckily, the SnowBall attendees are generally very respectful and friendly, and everyone ends up co-existing and it kind of just makes the resort town a more exciting and happy place for a weekend for everyone.
With problems that can occasionally plague multi-day music festivals (ie. overdoses and violence), were there any issues finding a host city or venue for SnowBall?
Fortunately, we haven’t had overdoses or shootings! But yeah, we outgrew Avon (the resort town who hosted us in 2011 and 2012), and not every resort town we targeted wanted to host a festival because of some of the risks that can be associated with musical-festival stigma. Winter Park has been super-supportive, though, of our vision, and we think we are all going to work together to lessen the truth behind that stigma.
You currently work for Windish Agency, one of the biggest talent agencies in the biz, and anyone in the biz usually has a first moment when they knew they had to be involved in music. What was that moment for you?
I actually started working on SnowBall before Windish. I booked the first year of the festival when I was a floater in the CAA music department. I don’t know… I have always felt pretty confident in my taste in music. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13, and recently started DJing around Los Angeles back in 2009. Now I am an agent at Windish who has a roster of 25 of my own clients. Being musically actively myself and booking a roster of my own clients has certainly helped me to effectively program a festival, and the same can be said vice-versa, as the festival has definitely helped me understand the scope of the live music landscape upon which I am booking my clients, and most importantly helped me find new music I love.