Following the release of his twelfth studio album, Unlimited, Bassnectar hosted Bass Center 2016, the producer's inaugural two-day camping festival July 29-30 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The extended two-hour sets from Lorin Ashton himself were the highlight for most of the 50,000 Bassheads who drove, flew and hitchhiked from around the country. However, the opening sets from Wu-Tang Clan, Porter Robinson, Flux Pavilion, AlunaGeorge, Flying Lotus and Lupe Fiasco, combined with the overall next-level event production, really set the concert apart from the rest, proving that, to quote the producer's latest collaboration with LUZCID, "Music Is The Drug."
The energy on Day One was so high I was honestly concerned the fans could keep up that level of hyperactivity for a full 48 hours (don't worry, my worries were swiftly proven wrong). Following wobbly dubstep-driven sets from up-and-comer Dabin and new favorite Minnesota, Lupe Fiasco really got the party started with an hour of bass-heavy hip-hop.
During his set, Fiasco paused the music to share some life advice that seemed to resonate with the crowd that was constantly picking up trash and sharing high-fives and water with one another: "leave a positive legacy." And that is exactly what the masses of hula-hoopers, glovers, kandi ravers, circus performers, bass aficionados and other colorfully-clad attendees wearing ear-to-ear grins did.
Brainfeeder label lead Flying Lotus set the tone for the first night with his signature weirder, almost psychedelic sound that was as heavy on the lower-end as ever. At one point in his hour-long set he paused to coax the crowd into sharing their stashes of legal recreational marijuana with him, eliciting laughs and cheers from the crowd.
Following something of a throwback set from "Bass Cannon" producer Flux Pavilion, Ashton kicked-off the first of his two headlining sets for the weekend with Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." He dropped a number of Unlimited tracks mixed in with classic Nectar tunes like "Bass Head" and "Cozza Frenzy." Fiasco joined him onstage for a hype rendition of "Vava Voom," but the feels really flowed when Crywolf stepped up to belt-out "Rising, Rising" towards the end of the set.
Afterwards, campers kept the excellent vibes flowing between the stacked Silent Disco and the utter wackiness of The Fungineers well towards dawn. Exhausted from driving halfway across the country I had no trouble sleeping in the next morning despite the heat, but my neighbors at the soccer field campsite were so excited for Day Two to begin they didn't even nap.
The festivities began again around noon on Saturday with a huge slip-n-slide, water balloons, badminton and other backyard barbecue party games to keep the Bassheads busy. The doors opened at 5:00 PM again, this time with Thriftworks followed by G Jones. By the time AlunaGeorge took the stage with their oft-remixed hit "Catching Flies," the party was in full gear.
Porter Robinson, beloved by dubstep fans for "Spitfire," played mostly Worlds tracks as well as a number of new ethereal, but as bass-heavy as ever IDs. Following Robinson's set, the stadium filled-in as hip-hop OGs Wu-Tang Clan took the stage for an hour of their classic hard-hitting hip-hop with a positive theme. They shouted-out many of the fallen heroes of the nineties and even threw in a heartfelt tribute to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.
Bassnectar's second and final set for the weekend was worlds apart from the first, reminding fans of his mind-blowing production prowess and extensive discography. From an earth-shattering rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" to his dreamy take on The Doors' "The End," the two hour-long set exceeded expectations.
Ashton concluded his Saturday night Bass Center set with the trippy "Follow My Instructions" suite that made its rounds of Reddit following a Madison Square Garden run. Complete with black-and-white swirling hypnotic visuals and text instructing fans to close their eyes and relax before the drop led the stadium into a frenzy, the song was the perfect conclusion to the main events of the weekend. The dazzling fireworks display that followed was just the icing on the delicious bass-flavored cake.
— łŁ$Ð-NEW EDM (@ilovesickdrops) August 3, 2016
As much as the function was turnt-up, so was the volume. As previously reported, Saturday night was apparently so loud that nearby Denver residents mistook the two-day concert for an earthquake. According to Noisey, community members up to 5 miles away from Dick's Sporting Goods Park could feel the subwoofers' tremors.
However, those in attendance were expecting the volume to shake their guts and reverberate through their water bottles while they danced about the stadium. With volunteers giving out free earplugs at every gate, anything less loud would have been a disappointment.
Of course, the volume wasn't an issue in the late night, which featured dubstep greats and frequent Bassnectar collaborators Liquid Stranger, ill.Gates, Run DMT, The Librarian, Jantsen b2b Dirty Monkey, Lafa Taylor, CraZ and others on the Silent Disco decks. As wonderfully weird as The Fungineers were during their second evening taking over the camping party with their dance-able live puppet show, they certainly weren't audible outside the venue.
It might sound cheesy, but when my crew and I heard reports of the noise complaints as we commenced our 2,000 mile trek home we couldn't help but imagine the neighbors were actually registering the crowd's energy rather than the DJs' volume levels on their decibel meters.
The Bassnectar Network, known for organizing school supply and clothing drives for those in need, introducing fans to one another as pen pals via Twitter, and putting together countless other feel-good projects surrounding Ashton's live shows, was in full gear all weekend long. Between the Networks' venue-wide parades, daily trash pick-ups and the crowds' myriad manifestations of "random acts of kindness" that resulted in me bringing home a purse full of stickers and other trinkets with reminders that we "have the power to change things," the vibes at Bass Center should be enough to ensure the event becomes an annual thing.