Five highlights from Shaun White’s Air + Style 2018

Air + Style 2018Photos courtesy of Air + Style // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Shaun White Presents Air + Style //
Exposition Park – Los Angeles
March 3rd-4th, 2018 //

When three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White launched his first Air + Style contest on U.S. soil three years ago in Pasadena (read our review here), it had plenty of kinks to work out like any brand-new event has nowadays. Half snowboard competition and half music festival, Air + Style offered a different twist for those who enjoy a side of extreme sports with their live music, or vice versa.

And in many ways, it still does. Because when you get right down to it, there aren’t a whole lot of events out there, if any, where you can catch some of the best snowboarders in the world go big while also taking in performances from top-notch artists and bands across a wide-range of musical genres. There’s the X-Games of course, but after that, there’s not much else.

White, in that regard, has certainly created something fun and unique in a short amount of time. But as we realized upon arriving at Exposition Park for Air + Style’s fourth installment here in LA, it wasn’t hard to see that there’s a heavy emphasis placed on the music. Maybe it felt that way because this year marked the first time there was no big air event (and we were rather disappointed to find that out on Day 1), even if the consolation prize was moving to a street-style course for the snowboarders and adding skateboarding, which was another first for Air + Style’s LA edition. Or, maybe it was a Coachella-like lineup headlined by Zedd and Phoenix, coupled with the size of the two stages, that made it feel like so many other major music festivals in Southern California that we have previously attended. Even Phantogram frontwoman Sarah Barthel said it herself, calling Air + Style a “mini Coachella” during the group’s hour-long set on the ginormous Winter Stage.

Either way, in a city with so much to do and an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to live music, it’s impressive to see Air + Style still going strong and drawing large crowds like it did this year. It may have been just another way for “The Flying Tomato” to party with friends and celebrate his latest Olympic gold from Pyeongchang, but for us, it served as an opportunity to see some of our favorite musicians in action and catch some others we’ve been eager to check out for a while (more on that below). So, with that said, these are our five highlights from Air + Style 2018.

Air + Style 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Whenever Australian four-piece Cut Copy come to town, you know you’re in for a dance party. But a rainy dance party? That’s something that none of us, including frontman Dan Whitford, saw coming. What blindsided all of us was an epic, approximately 10-minute downpour right in the middle of their set. And they thought it never rains in LA! Sorry, Danny boy … but well, it does — you know, every once in a while. As Whitford told the crowd, it was kind of amazing that their equipment didn’t short out, as we were treated to a lot of the usual favorites such as “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights and Music” as well as a few off 2017’s Haiku from Zero, including “Black Rainbows” and “Standing in the Middle of the Field”. For as many times as we’ve seen these guys take the stage over the years, they always seem to deliver — rain or shine.

Air + Style 2018 - DRAM

Considering that we wouldn’t exactly call ourselves huge fans of Zedd, Saturday’s bill felt a bit lackluster compared to Sunday’s. But one of the biggest surprises from the weekend proved to be DRAM, who was on a mission to “spread love” while at Air + Style. With so many examples of hate and violence in recent months, it was an important reminder for all of us no matter the setting, and in this case, White’s festival seemed as good as any for Shelley Massenburg-Smith to promote more positivity. DRAM’s performance, though, was more than just one big love fest — rather, it felt like a celebration of life as he performed “Cute” and later “Broccoli” (even if it was sans Lil Yachty), eventually making his way into the crowd to show his fans some more … why yes, love. Keep spreading those good vibes, Big Baby DRAM. We’re all for it.

Air + Style 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

In what was easily the most visually stimulating (and pleasing) show we witnessed at Expo Park, Ernest Greene, who performs under the moniker Washed Out, entranced a completely packed crowd at the smaller Summer Stage with a slew of trippy visuals and his chilled-out tunes. We had been wanting to see Washed Out in SoCal for several months now, ever since Greene released the project’s third LP Mister Mellow last year, and after missing his gig with Nick Murphy at the Shrine Expo Hall in October, we were glad to finally hear him play “Hard to Say Goodbye” (one of our favorite songs of 2017) and “Feel It All Around” live as any loyal “Portlandia” fan would be. With Toro y Moi venturing away from the chillwave movement he helped pioneer, it’s up to Greene to lead the charge, and so far, he has done one hell of a job.

Air + Style 2018- Griz


Gosh, we can remember when Grant Kwiecinski, aka Griz, was first starting out and opening for his buddies in Big Gigantic more than five years ago. Fast forward to now, and the 27-year-old Detroit native has climbed higher and higher up the festival ladder. Melding hip-hop and electronic music to create his own future-funk sound, Kwiecinski knows how to get the party going with various elements of trip-hop, dubstep and glitch-hop all sprinkled into his tracks, but it’s his jazzy saxophone solos — and some slick guitar work from his sidekick/childhood friend Muzzy Bearr (born Dan Hacker) — that adds another element to the final product. And then there’s his stage production, which Kwiecinski has clearly taken up a few notches as the huge screen on the Summer Stage flashed psychedelic images that would also poke fun at the current state of American politics. After all, what kind of music festival would it be without a few Donald Trump references?

Air + Style 2018 - Phoenix


After what we thought was an underwhelming way to wrap up Day 1, Air + Style closed with a bang thanks to Phoenix’s energizing, 16-song set. The French indie-pop outfit have headlined Coachella before, and it was more than worthy of that billing for this occasion. Kicking things off with the opening track “J-Boy” from their sixth studio album Ti Amo that dropped back in June, Thomas Mars and company gave us exactly what we wanted to hear: a hit-ladden show featuring singles like “Lisztomania”, “Trying to Be Cool”, “Too Young” and “1901”. No, there wasn’t a Daft Punk or R. Kelly appearance — not that we expected one — but Phoenix put an exclamation point on an otherwise successful weekend. We may not have known the quartet could rock that hard after the last time we saw them, but we definitely do now.


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