Copper’s Sunsation boasts big lineup
COPPER MOUNTAIN – The snowball that is the Sunsation music event at Copper Mountain is gaining speed and size, and has taken on a life of its own.Although Maja Russer, special events marketing manager for Copper, at first attributes this year’s all-star lineup for the end-of-season bash as the “stars … in alignment,” many other factors back it up, including the higher-ups’ early and continuing support of the event, a partnership with longtime local talent agent Michael O’Brien and the experience Copper offers to its entertainers.That final reason is what brought Keller Williams and crew back. According to Russer, Williams (who will play a free show Saturday at Burning Stones Plaza at 3 p.m.) offered to negotiate his price in exchange for lift and tubing tickets.”We try and make sure they know that option is open,” Russer said. “How cool is it to have a band here and send them up for some turns.”Russer and her assistant have a list of 150 to 200 jambands that they are constantly reviewing, and passing to O’Brien, who owns Peak Performances, and who works on most of Summit’s outdoor festivals. Along with the help of O’Brien’s connections, Russer keeps an eye on Denver shows, relying on the logic that if it sells out at a paid show in the Front Range, it will likely do well at their free show event.Getting the talent can take years. Copper’s persistence in getting the names they want paid off this year with the North Mississippi Allstars show; and almost got them Gov’t Mule, which Russer has been pursuing.Names like the John Popper Project came out of trying to get Blues Traveler to perform at Sunsation for several years. Although the band isn’t touring now, the side project with DJ Logic in the mix fit right in with last Saturday’s headliners De La Soul.
Of course the cash helps. Russer said that upper management at Copper realizes the festival’s importance to the resort and gives her an early budget, which allows her to make offers early. And as the festival has grown, year-round resort sponsors are asking to be more a part of the April celebration as well as new sponsors joining up.”Sunsation has definitely made a splash in the music industry,” O’Brien said. “It really quickly (maybe not in North America, because of the Whistler thing) but in the U.S., became the premiere end-of-season ski festival … Now other resorts are looking to Sunsation as the benchmark on how to do this right.”Russer described Michael Franti and Spearhead – who’ve played in past festivals, but have since gained more popularity with a recent album – as “the icing on the cake for the entire festival.” They play the final weekend, on Saturday the 14th.Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.