With SnowBall canceled again, why does Colorado still not have a large-scale music festival?

SnowBall Music FestivalWritten by Josh Herwitt //

Ever since I started visiting Denver on an annual basis to attend concerts at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it was easy to see just how important live music was to the state of Colorado. From rock to electronic to hip-hop, there has never been a shortage of shows in The Centennial State, which still boasts one of the best live music scenes in the country today.

Which brings me to yesterday, when a random thought came over me as to when SnowBall Music Festival would be releasing its 2016 lineup. The three-day fest, which I attended from 2011-2013, was forced to cancel its 2015 edition but assured fans that it would be returning in 2016 and specifically to the mountains, where it all started in Avon, Colo.

Yet, after taking a look at SnowBall’s Facebook page, I quickly noticed that no updates had been posted to it since January 2015, when the festival announced that it would not be taking place in 2015. With almost a whole year of no news, it was strange to not see anything by now, so I decided to comment on SnowBall’s last Facebook post, asking when its 2016 lineup might be released.

Snowball Music Festival 2013

Within 30 minutes of posting my comment, the festival released an official statement on their Facebook page, stating that SnowBall had been canceled for a second straight year and would not be returning to the mountains in 2016 after all. The news, of course, didn’t shock me, as I expected at this point it wouldn’t be happening considering that there were no updates on the festival’s social media channels for nearly a year.

But as I continue to think about the live music landscape in Colorado, it continues to surprise me that the state has yet to host its own large-scale music festival on a year-to-year basis. With comparable U.S. cities like Seattle, Austin, San Francisco and Las Vegas all holding their own unique music festivals, it’s hard to understand why Denver hasn’t jumped on board by now. Add in the fact that AEG Live, which produces the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in conjunction with West Coast concert promoter Goldenvoice each April, is a subsidiary of the Denver-based Anschutz Corporation, and it’s even more perplexing when you stop and think about it.

That’s not to say that Colorado doesn’t have its fair share of music festivals already — Global Dance Festival, Sonic Bloom, ARISE Music Festival and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival are all still in circulation — but none of them feature an eclectic bill of artists that garners national attention like Sasquatch!, Austin City Limits, Outside Lands and Life Is Beautiful all do. Riot Fest, which returned to Denver for its third year last August, is the closest thing Colorado has to a large-scale music festival, except it also throws separate editions in Toronto and Chicago, where the multi-day punk fest was born. In fact, when SnowBall debuted in 2011 with Pretty Lights, Bassnectar and The Flaming Lips serving as its headliners, there was hope among the festival’s organizers and fans that it could eventually develop into something bigger. But with SnowBall’s future looking rather bleak now, it’s unclear whether a large-scale music festival will ever make its home where the columbines grow.


  1. Very good – I really enjoyed this

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