Rüfüs du Sol to headline third Powabunga Music Festival
The popular electronic music festival is returning to Vail the weekend of Dec. 9-12 with world-class music acts, art installations and creative events
If you get hyped up from powdery slopes, world-class musical acts and mind-bending art installations, imagine all three of the things you love combined into one blowout of a weekend – that’s what the Powabunga Music Festival is all about.
Created in 2019 by Vail resident Austin Gavlak, the Powabunga Music Festival is returning for its third year on Dec. 9 – 12. This year, Gavlak and his partner Alex Ballesteros have planned a weekend with bigger acts, arts and activities than ever before.
“We’re taking this year to a new level,” Gavlak said. “Our goal for Powabunga is to marry music and the mountains in a way that creates a much deeper experience than just going to a concert. We are creating a special, immersive environment and bringing together a variety of activities that evokes a real visceral response.”
This year, the festival is offering a welcome party, two six-hour music sets, two after parties at Dobson Ice Arena, a number of smaller on-mountain music experiences and a Bottomless Bunga Brunch that could only come from the imagination of Gavlak himself.
Bringing the European electronic music scene to the mountains
Gavlak came to Vail around a decade ago, intending to spend one season as a ski bum before pursuing a career in finance. Like many before him, he fell for the mountains and never left.
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“I moved to Vail for one season before I became an adult, as they say, and it obviously stole my heart,” Gavlak said. “I just think Colorado is the best place to live in the whole world.”
Between his work at various jobs in the valley, Gavlak had the opportunity to travel to a number of European cities, where he experienced the vibrant electronic music culture that was booming across the continent.
“I was just blown away by the culture around these events and how it was so inclusive, and I left feeling inspired to carry that flame forward and bring some of these really cool things that were happening back to the mountains where I call home,” Gavlak said.
Applying the experience that he had gained working with a number of events and festivals in the valley, and with the support of funding from the Town of Vail, Gavlak launched the first Powabunga Music Festival in 2019. His vision was to blend the cutting-edge music culture that he had experienced in Berlin, Barcelona, and at Burning Man in Nevada with a celebration of the mountain environment.
”Music and skiing are my passions, so I like to give someone the opportunity to go on a vacation weekend where they can really fully embrace both,” Gavlak said. “It’s not often that you get to enjoy the mountains and then go see some really world-class artists.”
The festival’s reputation has grown every year, and was voted in at number four on the USA Today 10Best Emerging Festivals in 2020.
“We have people coming from all over the world,” Gavlak said. “There are literally thousands and thousands of people that are traveling a great distance to be a part of this event, and that is really humbling. It makes you feel good to know that you are on the right track, and that you’re doing something that people are excited to be a part of.”
Rüfüs du Sol to headline 2021 festival
Powabunga’s growing reputation means that Gavlak can now attract bigger musical acts than ever before.
“It’s just shifted,” Gavlak said. “In the beginning, when nobody knows who you are, you’re not quite begging people but you’re really pleading with them to understand your vision and see what you’re trying to do. And now it’s shifted to where these really cool artists are reaching out and saying they want to be involved.”
This year, the headlining act of the weekend is Rüfüs du Sol, an Australian electronic dance music trio that has been selling out venues around the world, including a recent show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Their latest album, “Surrender”, was released in October, and concert-goers will have the opportunity to be in one of the earliest audiences to experience the group’s newest tracks performed live.
“Rüfüs du Sol is one of the most popular artists in the world right now, so to have the opportunity to go and see this incredible artist and ski on the same day is a unique thing that we are really proud to offer,” Gavlak said.
Bob Moses, a Grammy-award winning duo from Canada, will be performing a live electronic set that they have honed over years of global touring and appearances at festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella and Lollapalooza .
Other notable artists that will be playing the weekend include Brazilian house DJ Vintage Culture, British songwriter and producer Elderbrook, California rapper Channel Tres and classically-trained pianist turned dance music producer LP Giobbi.
Tâches, N2N, Gavlak, Julia Sandstrom, Chris Cauldron, Golden, Housewife, Max Baum and Haasy round out the 2021 lineup.
The artists will be performing on a state-of-the-art stage that will be set up on the parking lot above the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The venue provides sweeping views of the Gore Range and Vail Mountain, while giving ample space for people to dance and enjoy the vendors that will be set up along the outskirts.
The extensive lineup features artists from all over the globe, sharing the latest innovations and accomplishments in electronic music.
“What’s cool about living in the mountains is that you go to bed happy and you wake up happy, and it’s simple living, but you kind of sacrifice the access to things like ethnic food and music and stuff – you have to leave to go do that,” Gavlak said. “So I think it’s exciting to bring some of that culture, for a moment in time, into the mountain lifestyle.”
The festival is divided into two six-hour sets that run from 4-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The evening schedule is designed so that attendees can hit the slopes before making their way to the outdoor venue at Ford Park.
While the live music sets are the focus of the weekend, Powabunga is also hosting a number of smaller events that are selling tickets separately.
Starting on Thursday, Dec. 9, there will be a free welcome party from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Attendees will be required to make a reservation, and more details will be announced about location and event specifics this upcoming week.
On Friday and Saturday, following the conclusion of the music sets at Ford Park, Powabunga is hosting after parties from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. both nights at Dobson Ice Arena. Gavlak said that the space will be completely transformed by sculptures, large-scale projection mapping and light shows, complemented with a state-of-the-art sound system playing music late into the night.
“What we’re doing at Dobson Arena – I’ve never seen anything like it in there,” Gavlak said. “We’re bringing in giant art installations and making this really cool environment while bringing in world-class sound. It would be tough for me to use words to give it justice.”
Finally, the weekend will close out with Gavlak’s latest creative idea: a Bottomless Bunga Brunch on Sunday morning. Brunch attendees will get to indulge in bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s while playing a bingo game called and DJ’d by The Great Bingo Revival, a Lake Tahoe-based entertainer that fuses music, comedy, dance and improv for an incomparable experience. Bingo winners will earn music and mountain-related prizes, but there is one important caveat: pants are not allowed.
There will be a pant-check at the door, to ensure that the brunch is truly “bottomless”, and prizes will also be given out for funny and creative underwear garments.
Tickets to the after parties and the Bottomless Bunga Brunch are sold separately, and will be made available for purchase on the Powabunga website in the upcoming weeks.
To purchase tickets to the 2021 Powabunga Music Festival and additional events, visit powabungafestival.com.
What: Powabunga Music Festival
When: December 9-12, various times and events
Where: Vail, multiple venues
More information: powabungafestival.com.