From golden-era hip-hop to indie folk, Burton U.S. Open brings a slew of free concerts to Vail |

From golden-era hip-hop to indie folk, Burton U.S. Open brings a slew of free concerts to Vail

Katie Coakley
Daily correspondent
Girl Talk, the mash-up and digital master otherwise known as Gregg Gillis, brings his high energy show to Vail for the Burton U.S. Open on Saturday.
Paul Sobota | Special to the Daily |

Burton U.S. Open Concert Lineup


2-5 p.m. — DJ Logic in the Burton pop-up tent at Golden Peak

6-10 p.m. — Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the Solaris Stage


2-5 p.m. — DJ Logic in the Burton pop-up tent at Golden Peak

6-10 p.m. — Moon Hooch and Girl Talk on the Solaris Stage

10 p.m.-1:30 a.m. — U.S. Open Closing Party with Grandtheft, DJ Maseo and Ali Shaheed Muhammad at Dobson Ice Arena

there are few sports that seem so deeply bonded with music as snowboarding. Think about it: A tennis match is dead quiet except for the grunts of the competitors. Golf? They even have signs telling attendees to hush up. Football and basketball have tunes to pump you up, but they’re not integral to the competition.

Then there’s snowboarding. From the beats that pump in the parks to the tunes that are personally piped into eardrums while riding, snowboarding seems almost inexorably linked to music, with the one influencing the other in a perfect synergistic relationship.

It should come as no surprise that the upcoming 33rd annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, going on now through Saturday, is punctuated with music, from the weekend headliners to after parties and a DJ in a pop-up tent. It’s not just one genre, either — the performances have almost as much variety as the competitors themselves.

The best part? They’re all free.

Social Experiments

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Today Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will take the stage after a performance by DJ Cre8. Led by frontman Alex Ebert, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is an indie folk band whose song “Home” hit the charts in 2009. They are famous for their joyous, spontaneous shows full of audience interaction. In fact, Ebert is known for playing much of his shows off of the stage.

It’s also a huge group. If bigger is better, then Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is one of the best. But it’s not just a size thing.

“I think after a certain number, you end up with this sort of fun, mushy territory where things bleed and you get a real sense of a group, rather than sort of discernible instruments in a band,” said Ebert, lead vocalist for the group. “It’s like the difference between chamber music and orchestra. It’s a smush that makes it feel togethery. That’s the reason for the band; it’s an experiment in a large band.”

The sound of that many people is integral to the sound in general, Ebert said. All of the instruments that are played, from piano to guitar, banjo to viola, are not just sounds for the studio. The band brings everything to a show, including all of the instruments that you might hear on an album — even the piano.

But while there is the perception that the band’s members change and switch out, Ebert said that the members have solidified and what started as a “social experiment” has, as things tend to do, changed.

“The music has become more important than the social experiment part of it recently,” Ebert said. “In the process of doing this, we actually became a really great band and stuck together. It’s not so much a rotating cast as people think. It’s a group of people that are getting good. The music has gotten to where we can play it in a way that it’s the most exciting thing that’s happening when we’re playing instead of this raucous experiment.”

For those looking for a lively show, fear not — Ebert said that it’s still a raucous time, but the show isn’t hinging on that.

“The music is the most important thing because it’s what we’re following,” he said.

Halfpipe and Full On

Saturday will see the halfpipe finals and a full night of music, starting with Moon Hooch, a band comprised of two saxophone players and a drummer that made their mark busking in New York City. Describing their music as “cave music … like house music, but more primitive and jagged and raw,” Moon Hooch has toured with They Might Be Giants, Mike Doughty and Galactic.

After Moon Hooch gets the crowd ready to dance, Girl Talk will take the stage. Gregg Gillis (the man who is Girl Talk) is famous for his mashups, creating new songs from a diverse mix of music that spans several genres and hundreds of artists. With a seemingly unlimited pool of energy, Girl Talk starts with the momentum at an 11 and keeps it up for the entire stage show.

“There are going to be lots of eye candy surprises that I think people haven’t seen in Vail before,” said Ian Warda, global events director for Burton Snowboards. “It’s going to be a real treat.”

Gillis, who is best known for his hyper-edited mashup work, most recently released an EP called “Broken Ankles” with Freeway, which is a different sound and style, but he said that it shows what you can do with different sampled based music. And while this album brought in new fans that hadn’t been familiar with his work before, Gillis said it was important to let people know that he hasn’t stopped working on the mashups.

“I’m always working on new material that relates to my other albums,” Gillis said. “I’ve always treated these albums as if I was in a band and these are my songs. When I go back and reference something, it’s not because I don’t have anything new to play, it’s because it’s one of my songs and I want to reference that.”

While Girl Talk shows may seem as though Gillis is putting together things on the fly, making the flow of complex arrangements look effortless, it’s much more orchestrated than it may seem.

“Sets for me are highly rehearsed,” Gillis explained. “I’ll go over it before a show and get things arranged, but it’s triggered live, so I have a set list and how I want to go through it.”

Arrangement and composition, just as in traditionally imagined music, is crucial for Gillis, and he’s always working on new music, seeking new inspiration and weaving material that he’s created into sets.

“Every time you come out to a show, it’s a custom thing for that moment,” he said. “I am triggering every sample by hand, so even when I’m playing the same source material, I tend to perform it a little differently. Things change.”


But the music doesn’t end there. Dobson Ice Arena will be the venue for the U.S. Open Closing Event, where a trio of DJs is primed to deliver a show unlike any seen in Vail before. Grandtheft, a Toronto-based DJ with a base trending club sound who was the official DJ for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, will perform. You’ll also hear DJ Maseo (Plug 3 of De La Soul) and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest, both classic hip-hop artists.

A DJ/musician/producer and, now, journalist as he co-hosts “Microphone Check” on NPR, Ali has been performing for more than 25 years and said that he realized that the word “hip-hop” has different meanings to people in different age groups.

“Hip-hop now, it’s been around long enough to be considered old,” Ali said. “I tend to be heavy on the classic golden era age of hip-hop, but I’m going to play music, not just in the genre of hip-hop, not just the golden era. I’m going to read the room and have a good time.”

As befits the wrap-up event for the week of competition and concerts, the closing concert is sure to be a memorable event, bringing together three exceptional artists with varied backgrounds but incomparable talent.

“At the end of the evening, I hope that people will be in a celebratory state and they want to hear what I want to bring,” Ali said.

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