Road Trip Report:Air & Style Los Angeles

William Gross
Special to the Aspen Times
The 16-story snowboard ramp at Air & Style Los Angeles.
William Gross/Special to the Aspen Times |

As I finished my road trip down the coast of California, finding myself in the City of Angels as the weekend approached, I wondered what fun I could get into. The weather was cloudy and rainy, to say the least, and part of me was still getting over the depression of missing all the powder in Colorado this winter — especially in Aspen.

Air & Style Los Angeles? A music festival with one of the biggest and longest-running big air snowboard contests in the world all in one place? Count me in.

With snowboarders like tour leader Marcus Kleveland, fan favorites Mark McMorris and Stale Sandbech competing and a music festival headlined by Flume and Major Lazer, I felt like I could do no wrong.

As I walked into the festival at Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles, I saw that 16-story big air jump looking like some wild art project. Only in LA could they pull an event of this magnitude off: snowboarders throwing double and triple corks while two stages of world-renowned musicians play and hipsters mingle with University of Southern California frat boys.

The festival seemed to have everything going for it — or maybe a little too much going on. There was a skate ramp, snowboarding on a man-made hill, street artists painting canvases. It’s a music festival with some great indie acts mixed with new kings of the rap game and DJs with more production value than actual music expertise.

The snowboarding event was nothing but a circus sideshow to the normal crazy festival antics. If you asked most fans who was winning the event or what tricks were going down, most would truly answer, “Snowboarding? Haven’t watched it at all. But that jump looks insane.”

Snowboarding is a thing of style, an art in itself. It was born out of surfing and skateboarding, and no matter how much these contests and events thrown by Shaun White and corporations happen and are seen by the masses, this will never change for the hardcore knuckle-draggers working dead-end jobs to get first tracks on a powder day, drop that cliff they have been working up to or landing their first method with more steeze than a corked-out triple 1440 will ever have. Don’t think snowboarding is a big air competition in downtown LA where whoever can flip more and spin more than the other person wins.

On the music ends of things, there were some highlights amidst the flops by the headliners Major Lazer and Flume.

Highlights included the following:

• The Shelters played an early set on Saturday afternoon, and with their fast guitar riffs and simple lyrics the crowd was buzzing. When they played their hit track, “Rebel Heart,” the crowd really started dancing.

• Vince Staples announced to the crowd: “I try my best to stay away from the political bullshit … not my place. I am here to play music.” That is what he did. Keeping his rhymes tight and the beats hard, he made Saturday evening a very special night. Playing some unknown tracks as well as his “American Beauty,” it was no surprise that the Long Beach native and local favorite is going to be the next big name in the rap world along the likes of So Cal legends Tupac and Dr. Dre.

• ZHU, the Chinese-American electronic musician and singer, truly killed the status quo of electronic music these days with his performance Sunday evening. Nothing was missing; live vocals, two guitarists/keyboardists and a production value that would even make Maynard James Keenan proud.


Foodstuff: What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?

It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.

See more