Last weekend in the breathtaking mountain town of Buena Vista, Colorado, Madison House Presents and AEG Live brought into fruition an inaugural festival unlike any other. Vertex Festival has now set the bar even higher for the festival scene and given music, art and fun lovers all over a new ‘must-do’ weekend every year. Check out some of our favorite sounds, sights and festie goodies that made Vertex a new favorite…and definitely one we never want to miss out on!
The Location & Community
Let us start first with a big ‘THANK YOU’ to Buena Vista as a whole: the community, the local businesses, the volunteers, the workers, the Mayor, Cottonwood Meadows ranch owner Jed Selby and everyone who allowed and supported Vertex Fest throughout its evolution and throughout the entire weekend of festivities. Surrounded by the Collegiate peaks in the few hundred acre large Cottonwood Meadows, Madison House Presents and AEG Live could not have picked a better location for Vertex to be held. The weather was wonderful minus a few showers Friday afternoon, the camping options were ample and comfortable and the attention to little details was spot on. From what I have heard, Vertex did not cause “earthquake” complaints like Bass Center, there were very few arrests (we have heard anywhere from 4-9 which is hardly anything for a huge festival…good job!) and the town seemed to have had more positives than negatives to say about the fest’s takeover of Buena Vista, Colorado.
Friday was a fantastic kick off day for Vertex: familiarizing with the grounds, catching a few early sets at the beach, first hugs and smiles with fellow amped up Vertexans and setting those festival vibes on the highest note. I kicked off my musical program with the multi-talented Jackson Stell a.k.a. Big Wild. Giving us a few new tunes and all our booty thumping favorites, Jackson definitely gained some new fans this weekend. Next up was Fruition, who dominated the festival so hard, I wrote a separate piece about their goodness. Really striking our fancy was Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, giving us a hella tight full band hip-hop experience that definitely lived up to the hype we have been hearing. Nathan & Jessie and friends served up some refreshing jazzy folk and Dawes, Emancipator Ensemble and the recent Grammy winners, Alabama Shakes brought Friday night to extreme musical heights as expected. Local Boulder band, Evanoff, were also extremely fun to watch! Up and coming electronic producer Jai Wolf pleased the edm masses while Fruition produced a down right epic “Under the Covers” set. Gramatik straight slayed the game, bringing The Shady Horns in for the set, adding a whole new level to the show.
The Bazaar & Art Installations
Throughout the entire weekend, constant comparisons were made between Vertex and Rothbury, Michigan’s Electric Forest (also put on by Madison House). Strewn throughout “The Bazaar,” which was a long walkway of forest shenanigans connected the camping grounds to the stages, was endless immersive activity and art. Filled with characters straight out if “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” fairy size houses hiding in the trees, a balloon house that was just as fun as it sounds, a tickling parlour (Shout out to you, Jill!) and plenty of interactive art to entertain humans of ALL ages, “The Bazaar” was so intricately and amazingly well done. Every time I made a walk through, new discoveries and friends awaited around every corner.
First off, let’s talk about the Vertex’s daily beach party. Imagine a small lake filled with inflatable unicorns, oversized rubber duckies, beautifully decked out humans, a swim up bar, unlimited prime hammock real estate and a beached butterfly filled hot air balloon STAGE with your favorite DJ’s spinning, and you have a dose of the epic raunchiness that was the Vertex beach party. Comparable to What The Festival’s pool stage, there’s just something about being practically naked surrounded by mountains and beautiful people with a cold cocktail in hand and live tunes that got me real psyched up and super impressed. The La Hacienda Stage was a close second in the stage department at Vertex. Set among the trees and created entirely out of wood and upcycled local materials, the La Hacienda Stage was just stunning to look at and provided an old school cowboy saloon vibes for lots of feel good strumming and live music watchin’! The silent disco was also a great asset, providing late night entertainment for those still raging and peace and quiet for those not.
A few hundred Vertexans converged at La Hacienda to begin the day with some yoga followed by Dreamers Delight, DJ ZJ a.k.a. Ryan Zoidis and Jesus Coomes from Lettuce and Imagined Herbal Flows with some upbeat sets at the beach. Robert DeLong brought a super zestful set to the Princeton Garden stage followed by Indiana’s American alternative powerhouse Houndmouth. The Revivalists and Classixx brought the heat, followed by the legendary Graham Nash. Next was a huge toughie for me, because Rüfüs Du Sol and Fruition are both favorites of mine and they were playing at the same time. Bringing vocals, relatable lyrics and instruments to create a house sound is super difficult and Sydney Australia’s Rüfüs Du Sol nails it…and then some. After catching the first half of their set, I ran over to La Hacienda to catch Fruition and Friends. Lettuce brought the funk and even though I have seen them 8 times this year, these funky cats always bring one of the best sets wherever they may be. Closing out the Garden was Seattle duo, Odesza, who brought with them the CU Boulder drumline and blew the thousands of fans away who came for the weekend to solely see Odesza.
As mentioned a few times before, my love for this band is massive and their presence at Vertex was equally massive, so here is a separate article to delve into this massiveness and thoroughly appreciate the amazing musicianship of this Portland, Oregon, quintet.
Usually festivals fly by, and this was definitely the case for Vertex. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was super bummed knowing it was the last day in the Meadows, but I got my sexiest one piece on and strolled over to the last beach party. Golf Clap and Goldroom straight killed it giving us the panty droppin’ and booty shakin’ house music we all needed a fat dose of. Getting a later start than usual, I headed over to the Cottonwood Parlor for some of my favorites in the progressive rock jam game, Dopapod. Trout Steak Revival (check out our interview), an amazing bluegrass quintet based out of Denver and also the 2014 winners of The Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, followed with an intimate and energetic set at La Hacienda while legends The Claypool Lennon Delirium brought some tripped out psychedelic rock ‘n roll to the scene. Fruition played their fourth and final set with Yonder Mountain fiddler babet Allie Kral and then we all headed to see TWO SETS from the man, the myth, the legend Trey Anastasio and his newly unveiled band consisting of TAB alumnus Jeff Cressman playing trombone and Cyro Baptisa on percussion. The first set included the classics ‘First Tube,’ ‘Cayman Review,’ a cover of Marley’s ‘Soul Rebel,’ and early TAB songs ‘Money Love & Change’ and a set closing sequence of ‘Valentine,’ ‘Dark & Down,’ ‘Sand’ and ‘Tuesday.’ Second set highlights included the TAB instrumental version of Phish’s ‘Magilla,’ an unexpected cover of Gorillaz’ ‘Clint Eastwood,’ ‘Show Of Life,’ and ending their first show of 2016 with with an unbeatable cover of ‘Dazed & Confused.’ The party wrapped up with Seven Lions, Eminence Ensemble and an all night dance party at the silent disco.
The Vibes & Crowd
Of course music is usually the main magnet attracting people to festivals, but just as important to me, is the vibe and crowd a festival hosts. For a first year fest, Vertex’s vibe and attendance (although lower than the 20,000 hoped- for ringing in at 8,000) was on point, and every attendee seemed to agree. Creative totems filled the crowds, hilarious performance troupes froliced the grounds (HUGE shout to The Strongmen!), smiles, hugs and love was limitless and nothing but positive vibes filled the air. It is safe to say, Vertex broke the festival scene and then some last weekend in Buena Vista. Go ahead and plan for next year, because a Vertexan is something everyone should strive to be in their lifetime.