Music Goes Big at X Games Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Music Goes Big at X Games Aspen

Live music appears to have found its place at the Winter X Games. After years of experimenting — with free concerts in Wagner Park, paid concerts in Wagner Park, free truncated shows on the awards stage at Buttermilk — last year ESPN seemed to get it right.

The new 6,000-capacity music venue, little more than a big-air leap away from the on-snow action, took on the nightly vibe of a top-tier (though very cold) music festival last year, with high production values and fan-pleasing shows from blue chip acts like Snoop Dogg, Chromeo, Skrillex and Wiz Khalifa.

"We didn't know how the venue was going to feel last year, but when you went out to Buttermilk, it was nice and a natural amphitheater in this setting in the mountains," Tim Reed, ESPN's vice president of X Games, said Wednesday at Buttermilk. "So after taking it in, even just as a spectator and a fan last year, I felt the experience was really nice."

The music festival kicked off Thursday with a hip-hop double bill of Run the Jewels and Nas and continues with four more shows this weekend. All of the artists also are playing indoors at Belly Up Aspen downtown.

With a mix of hip-hop and electronic, new and old — legends like Nas and deadmau5 alongside zeitgeist-y acts such as Kygo, Run the Jewels and Twenty One Pilots — the music is an audience draw in itself. To book it, ESPN looks for acts that'll provide an ideal soundtrack to the extreme competitions and suit the ears of the young X Games crowd.

"What we hope for is an added element of fun that is connected to the sports and the lifestyle," Reed said. "Like with the sports, we're just trying to pay attention to what the kids want to listen to. It's about making sure we're programing for teens and millennials and adding another added experience to the event."

Recommended Stories For You

Friday's Twenty One Pilots show at Buttermilk show has sold out, along with the Kygo's Friday night show at Belly Up and Saturday's late-night concert at Belly Up. Tickets for the rest were still available at press time.

Run the Jewels

Friday at Belly Up Aspen

At a Run the Jewels show at Denver's Gothic Theatre in November, Killer Mike took the stage and announced, "We came here to get high and f— s— up." And sure, the intense, kinetic hip-hop set that followed kept the crowd moshing and throwing up the duo's signature "fist and gun" hand signal throughout. But Run the Jewels is doing a lot more these days than just crafting riotous, cathartic live shows in the tradition of Rage Against the Machine. They're doing more than producing the best hip-hop albums out there (their "Run the Jewels 2" was Pitchfork's 2014 Album of the Year, and their anticipated third effort is currently in the works).

Run the Jewels contains multitudes. That same show at the Gothic also included an earnest speech from Killer Mike (a regular on TV news and op-ed pages since his emotional 2014 speech in St. Louis during the unrest in Ferguson went viral) on police violence against young black men, an endorsement of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and sillier moments like an extended take on "Love Again," their tongue-in-cheek ode to oral sex (this is, after all, the band that last year released an absurd cat-sound remix album — for charity — titled "Meow the Jewels").

At a Run the Jewels show, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think, you may have a crowd-surfer land on your head. You can't miss it.

Twenty One Pilots

Friday at X Games

A malleable pop duo, Twenty One Pilots has blown up in the mainstream in the months since they were booked for their X Games and Belly Up shows, notching a top 10 single for the first time this month with the laid-back hip-hop track "Stressed Out."

But the Ohio-bred partnership between singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun has been at it since 2009, growing a cult following and steadily gaining listeners with one of the most buzzed about live shows in music and the albums "Vessel" (2013) and "Blurryface" (2015). Friends since high school, Joseph and Dun are genre agnostic. They crafted a blend of screamo and rap on "Car Radio," offered a likeable slice of synth-pop on "Tear in My Heart," they went rock-rap on "Fairly Local" and "Heavydirtysoul." Armed with beats, pianos, keyboards, a keytar and the occasional ukulele, Twenty One Pilots can do anything they want.

Kygo

Friday at Belly Up Aspen; Sunday at X Games

The DJ credited with first pioneering "tropical house," the it-sound of the electronica moment, is Kygo.

So, WTF is "tropical house?"

It's basically a more organic-sounding spin-off of house music and a sunnier, friendlier sibling of deep house. Where deep house goes big and synthetic — and dubstep goes for high drama with sounds reminiscent of alien monster communications (memorably spoofed by Key and Peele) — tropical house brings in acoustic instrumentation, horns and marimbas. And the beats tend to be a little slower than on a deep house track.

The 24-year-old Norwegian's massive global following came initially from his remix of Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire" and has continued through collaborations with pop vocalists like Conrad Sewell ("Firestone"), Chris Martin ("Midnight" remix), Will Heard ("Nothing Left").

Tonight's show at Belly Up sold out shortly after tickets went on sale this fall. Tickets are still available for Sunday's big outdoor concert at Buttermilk closing out the X Games music festival.

DJ Snake

Saturday at X Games; Sunday at Belly Up Aspen

This is the man who gave us "Turn Down for What," the irresistible, unavoidable club track collaboration with Lil Jon that became the biggest song of 2014.

Born in France but now based in Miami, DJ Snake (William Grigahcine) has taken the festival circuit and electronic music scene by storm and is earning nods from MTV's Video Music Awards and the Grammys since "Turn Down for What." His more recent shots at pop domination have been last year's remixes of AlunaGeorge's "You Know You Like It" and his Diplo collaboration "Lean On."

deadmau5

Saturday at X Games and Belly Up Aspen

The icon in the light-up mouse head, deadmau5 paved the way for today's age of EDM — the first electronic artist to perform at the Grammys, the first to make the cover of Rolling Stone, the guy who helped make spectacular light shows cool again at concerts. Ten years into his career, the 35-year-old DJ born Joel Thomas Zimmerman this week shared a pair of clips of new music on Soundcloud — looking for feedback from fans on the atmospheric segments. So keep your ears peeled at his two shows Saturday night for some fresh-from-the-studio material.

The late night Belly Up show is sold out. Tickets are still available for the X Games concert.

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

WHO: TWENTY ONE PILOTS

When: Friday, Jan. 29, 9:30 p.m.

Where: Buttermilk Ski Area

How much: $35

Tickets: Sold out

WHO: RUN THE JEWELS

When: Friday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m.

Where: Belly Up Aspen

How much: $40-$55

Tickets: http://www.bellyupaspen.com

WHO: DJ SNAKE

When & Where: Saturday, Jan. 30, 4:30 p.m. at X Games; Sunday, Jan. 31, 10 p.m. at Belly Up

How much: $25/X Games; $85-$185/Belly Up

Tickets: Buttermilk box office and http://www.xgames.com; http://www.bellyupaspen.com

WHO: DEADMAU5

When & Where: Saturday, Jan. 30, 9:30 p.m. at X Games; 10:15 p.m. at Belly Up

How much: $50/X Games; $135-$295/Belly Up

Tickets: Buttermilk box office and http://www.xgames.com for X Games; Sold out for Belly Up

WHO: KYGO

When & Where: Friday, Jan. 29, 11 p.m. at Belly Up; Sunday, Jan. 31, 3:30 p.m. at X Games

How much: $65-$125/Belly Up; $35/X Games

Tickets: Sold out for Belly Up; Buttermilk box office and http://www.xgames.com for X Games

Go back to article