When Denver artist Illenium takes the stage at Empower Field in Mile High on June 17, it will not only be the largest electronic dance music concert in Colorado history, but also one of the largest events ever hosted by a Colorado artist .
"The next biggest venue on my (fall) tour probably holds 25,000 people," says Illenium, aka DJ, producer and songwriter Nick Miller. "Most seats are between 8,000 and 15,000, and I think I played in a football stadium in Chicago."
The event culminated the week when Colorado EDM artists GRiZ (Denver-based) and Big Gigantic (Boulder) performed at the Denver Nuggets victory parade on June 15, lending support to the city of nearly 1 million residents of Denver who attended. .
Despite, or in some cases because of, the COVID-19 pandemic, EDM fans and artists in Colorado have never had more choices. The momentum of the scene is based on more than two decades of groundbreaking events, from early warehouse raves to the annual world dance festival Triad Dragon, Beatport labels, original clubs like Beta (since closed) and Church, and decadent New Year's Eve festivals.
With all eyes on Illenium, Denver has completed a multi-year transformation, not only into the "Amsterdam of the West", as many artists call it, but also into the new center of the bass subgenre. The move helped attract international talent to live, work and tour outside the Mile High City, while providing EDM fans with a steady stream of world-class concerts.
To be fair, Miller's stature is far from typical. He began performing at the 500-seat Bluebird Theater in 2015, so the sale of more than 40,000 tickets at Empower Field represents, according to the latest from his publicist, a staggering 8,000% increase since he hit the news. a modest theater on East Colfax Ave.
Only Colorado acts like The Lumineers, who headlined Coors Field last year, and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, who sold out the Ball Arena and Red Rocks Amphitheater, came close to Miller's coin toss. But its exponential growth is a reflection of Denver becoming on par with EDM heavyweights like Chicago (house), Detroit (techno) and Miami (bass).
"I think scenes with less history or depth can produce the same results," says Diego Felix, an EDM.com contributor and arts development coordinator for the nonprofit Fort Collins Music District. "The decadent-type stuff is based on longtime events like the Skylab and House of Bass in Fort Collins, and the increasing takeover of the Red Rocks calendar by EDM acts."
There is no shortage of genres and artists
Decadence in particular annually attracts EDM giants such as Tiësto, Zeds Dead and REZZ, as well as Colorado bands GRiZ, CloZee, Said the Sky, Mersiv and Pretty Lights – all local headliners from Red Rocks and worldwide rights tours.
"I moved here in 2020 because it is central to my musical style," says Clozee, also known as French DJ and producer Chloe Heri, who will headline the Sonic Bloom festival in Colorado on June 17. "I already have so many friends and my tour manager is here and I know artistically he's going to be the best choice for my (career)."
CloZee's latest album, "Microworlds," is set to drop this summer following her Red Rocks debut last year. At 16, growing up in a small town in France, he watched Red Rocks videos on YouTube and made it his goal to play there.
"The demand for EDM shows is huge here and it's easier to connect with other industries and artists than in other cities," says Harry, who runs the Odyzey Music label. He was scheduled to rock the Mission Ballroom on New Year's Day on December 30th and 31st and return to Denver for the final date of his Microworlds tour.
EDM artists came to Denver because, they say, there was an obvious path to growth. Artists who started out in small clubs like the Larimer Lounge were able to grow quickly by showcasing their appeal and work ethic to promoter AEG Live Rocky Mountains, the area's top booker. They helped make EDM—a loose term that includes drum and bass, dubstep, house, techno, trance, and other genres—into the mainstream of the 21st century.
Evolution at all levels
In 1999, a group of DJs from Denver founded the groundbreaking Milehighhouse Productions to support the early days of electronica (as it was called), throwing parties and releasing nearly three dozen records on world tours. Co-founder Tom Hoch Jr. also teamed up with Denver-based fledgling website and label Beatport in the early 2000s, essentially iTunes for DJs, to make it a global name.
"EDM used to be divided into nightclubs and events," Hoch says, crediting Denver pioneers like artist/producer Ha Haw, who founded the Global Dance Festival (which returns for its 20th anniversary Aug. 22 at Empowerment Field). "But the wall is completely torn down."
Open for 6 years, Denver's Temple Nightclub hosts a variety of artists, including Machine Gun Kelly and Lil John, but is also popular for EDM. San Francisco owner Paul Hemming expanded his brand to Denver after noticing the city's live music schedule, which supports one of the busiest scenes in the country with as many (or more) venues per capita than Austin, Texas, according to Rolling Stone.
"During the pandemic, San Francisco was very successful, and there was a massive exodus," said Hemming, also a DJ and former record store owner. "But we're seeing growth in the Denver market, thanks in part to a vibrant music scene."
Denver's legal marijuana and decriminalized magic mushrooms create an atmosphere of acceptance and exploration, artists say, with fans equally devoted to big parties like the Zeds Dead & Friends Backyard Jamboree at Civic Center Parks on July 4, and a growing demand to EDM. in small clubs.
Of course, a rave party never goes out of style.
Niches worldwide, online and offline
Denver-based house music collective NITE RINSE, which hosts "secret warehouse events" around the city and at its Ballpark-area venue ReelWorks, was among the winners of its post-pandemic live events. But while most venues have closed in 2020, Knew Conscious in Denver is launching the "Alive from Knew Conscious" series, featuring weekly live streams from Denver artists including CloZee, SunSquabi and Eminence. Together.
It's a constant safety net for artists and fans, says founder Kurt Redeker.
"In addition to creating a community (outside) of Denver that can watch the show from anywhere, it protects businesses during unprecedented events like a pandemic," he said. "Anything (that would ruin) live music."
A similar River Beats TV launched this month to broadcast EDM programming, drawing on the culture of Denver-based parent company River Beats Dance. Launched in 2020, the channel has broadcast over 400 hours of live broadcasts, raising $150,000 for independent sites. This includes Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, where River Beats will debut their Thursday SHIFT lineup in 2021.
"People here love their live music as much as they love their craft beer," said Ben Dillis, co-founder of River Beats, who also hosted The Deep, a live EDM series at X Denver on June 3. "You can't limit yourself to one genre, but you can provide enough variety to satisfy the fans (of which there are several)."
Working in the digital space keeps Denver's EDM artists busy, whether they're active or not, with gigs, collaborations and tours, they say.
"I'm primarily a studio musician and songwriter, so I can record vocals from home and work with people online," says Laura Brehm, whose songs have received over a billion streams thanks to her melodic and solo EDM work : This is exciting. cooperation. A Colorado native, he has recorded and broadcast music on the Front Range for nearly three decades. He immediately recalled a time when the EDM scene in Denver was much calmer.
"Denver is like a second Los Angeles now," marvels Bram, who in April released the single "Wonder" with London producer DJ Nikonn. “There are more artists, more labels and more PR than ever before. It's a place where people really want to live, and crowds of people still come to see the show."
Protect the reputation of the scene
Writers have recently taken steps to ensure Denver's EDM reputation remains progressive, with edgy series like Secret Dance Addiction and potluck festival Sundown Colorado — both from artist-producers Amber and Mike Handby — as well as tackling sexism, drug- overdose and other problems. has given him a negative stigma in the past.
According to the educational nonprofit DanceSafe, people who use recreational drugs can increasingly test for fentanyl at stations inside and outside dance halls. Clubs such as Cervantes have added flip-top lids to drinks to prevent overdoses, and toilet paper can be discreetly handed to staff if someone is in trouble, thanks to advice from sexual harassment charity The Bluebench.
"There was a lot more intent," said EDM.com writer Felix. "Concerners are building more inclusive lineups of different artists and spaces, especially after the pandemic sparked protests over the killing of George Floyd. People are more interested in feeling safe."
EDM fans can only hope that the scene will continue to grow, even though the artists and guitarists knew it from the beginning.
"There aren't as many markets to tap into (artificially) as there are in Denver," says Illenium's Miller. "These days the Red Rocks summer is like 6 months of dance festivals and the good vibes come from the support and ticket sales. If you're an artist here, you can actually chart your growth. Where can this be done?
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