Blake Dryden, a Colorado resident, promoter, concert-organizer, travel-wizard, icon, and mega-fan of music. Literally, mega. I can go on. He does a lot, is an easy way to put it.
With massive achievements under his belt in the music industry across the Southwest, he is a moving piece, vital to his prolific work, and the impact he delivers in lives on the micro and macro levels of dance music is his driving force.
When I heard he had gone to over 100 shows at Red Rocks, I knew an interview was imminent.
From Texas to Colorado, and just about everywhere in the world please welcome,
Question 1: Let’s start with the question I am dying to know the answer to. What goes into achieving a milestone such as visiting, attending and rocking out to over 100 shows at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre?
Answer 1: First, I would like to thank my Mom haha. No, but really, it is kind of her fault. She never let me go to concerts when I was younger. When I finally started making my own money, that’s one of the first things I bought- concert tickets. Some say I have gone a little overboard, I say I’m dedicated. In theory, had she let me go years and years ago- I would either be a whole lot worse or not nearly as bad. Maybe I’m just making up for lost time?
Music is truly a passion of mine and I love nothing more than piling into a car with friends, cranking up the music, and heading out for the evening. Once I moved to Colorado in 2013 and visited Red Rocks for the first time, everything changed. I went to my first Red Rocks show in May 2013 for Imagine Dragons. A sold-out and absolutely epic show. Fun Fact- my first show in Colorado was at the Gothic Theatre for Icelantics Winter on the Rocks afterparty with Diplo. You name it, I have probably seen it at Red Rocks. As of January 2020, I have 109 Red Rocks shows under my belt and am excited to keep adding experiences to the list.
Question 2: What all projects and side works have you been involved with over the years that have contributed to such a well-seasoned career in the EDM phenomena?
Answer 2: I started with City2Snow, a local outlet for anything city and outdoors related. Skiing, boarding, fishing, hiking, and of course- live music. Owner Matt had reached out to me via Instagram because he liked my content. I started doing write-ups for shows and events around town, and tagged respectively on my Instagram to promote the brand, in addition to Street Teaming. I feel like almost everyone starts here, and it is important to. Gotta start somewhere, and typically that is hanging posters and passing our fliers after shows. Simple as that.
The first event I covered for C2S was January 2014 for Adventure Club and Bass Physics at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. Which looking back is kind of funny- who would have thought, just two and a half years later that I would be working directly with Bass Physics through Feyline? Not me.
I also did some promoting for Snowball Music Festival in Denver through Souls In Action, countless Facebook invites for venues around town, and overall networking. The greatest propulsion tool I think anyone can utilize is networking. You would be shocked at where you can get by simply being human, and talking with people.
Euphoria Music Festival down in Austin, TX was my first camping festival in 2015 though City2Snow for Media Coverage. I went back in 2016 as a volunteer where I learned a lot about logistics and planning a large scale event. Everything it takes behind the scenes, in the days/weeks leading up to the fest. I recommend everyone volunteer at least once for a festival. A truly life-changing experience.
In volunteer camping at Euphoria 2016, I met the Party Guru himself, Mike Knopping. A big group of us from Colorado all somehow ended up together and ran that festival haha. Again- networking, being human. Little did I know, Knopping would become such a close friend, mentor and overall favorite human being back in Denver.
The following September, with the help of my roommate and my Instagram account, I was brought in as in Social Media Intern at Feyline Presents. For those of you who don’t know, Barry Fey brought Led Zeppelin to the US for the first time, was behind massive tours with the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, U2 iconic concert film at Red Rocks, the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks, you name it- Barry Fey was involved if it pertained to concert promotion and or touring in the US. In fact, without Barry- the live music industry wouldn’t be what it is today. Knowing this, I felt honored to be apart of such a legacy by working for his son, Tyler Fey and the incredibly talented Feyline Team.
I was brought on as a social media intern and was now working directly with acts I had seen perform all over Colorado and some even in other states like Bass Physics, Templo, Evanoff and Skydyed to name a few. I started doing any and everything I could at Feyline to learn and grow in the industry. Learning from Tyler, Angela, Shane, Christian and more at the office, truly made me realize this is something I love and want to be apart of the rest of my life.
At Feyline, I ultimately ended up doing tour management duties, artist hospitality and management, talent buying, destination event planning for Island of Lights with Pretty Lights in Puerto Rico, Mile High Spirits Block Party, and countless other projects. We even opened a venue in Central City- The Scarlet. An old renovated casino, where my roommate and I put together our first sold-out show with Space Jesus, Shlump, DMVU and Digital Vagabond back in February 2017. The place was packed with all the homies, PACKED!
My good friend, Nate and I have also been building our blog/media outlet: Welikemusic. Last year did Sonic Bloom Media Coverage, conducted some interviews, and have uploaded quality content from all the fun we get into, as well as fan submissions to be featured. We keep our followers informed on upcoming events, connected to other music fans, and deliver solid content from all over the world. Still small, albeit growing- I am excited to see where we can take it. All in the name of fun and just another way to be involved.
More recently- I have been doing Artist Hospitality and Transport for Global Events. The most memorable artist I picked up was Kristian Nairn (aka Hodor for all you Game of Thrones fans) and his manager for Supernatural Fest. He is 7 feet tall and barely fit in my Tahoe- I am 6ft 3 and am rarely dwarfed- couldn’t believe his size. Super nice guys and I have made sure to stay in touch with them. Looking forward to our paths crossing again soon to catch up.
I do also work a 9-5 since having graduated from Business School- but the Music Industry is where my true passion and joy is showcased. I will forever be involved in some way, shape, or form. These people are family!
Question 3: With all the love in the world, what has been your highlight moments in dance music and lowlights?
Answer 3: Highlights: The opportunities that this industry has presented to me are priceless. I have had all access to almost every venue in Denver, including Red Rocks multiple times when we had Templo open at Global Dub, Bass Physics open for Illenium, and more.
You know how when someone sends you a track link via SoundCloud and it just keeps playing related-tracks for you based on its algorithm? It never gets old when an artist I personally know or have worked with comes up as a suggested track. The little things.
Another highlight would be getting to walk the tunnel that runs underneath the soundboard and crowd, spitting you out directly below center stage. Its walls are signed by countless legends who have played there over the years. You wanna talk about being enveloped in goosebumps and almost moved to tears, you should have seen me in there. Incredible. One of the highlights of my music industry career is standing in such a coveted and historical place in music. Somewhere closed off to the public. Truly, a special experience.
Working with and for Pretty Lights / Feyline to create Island of Light, what would have been arguably the best-curated destination event ever. We worked long and hard on that event only to have mother nature decide otherwise in the form of Hurricane Maria. Still hits hard, as Pretty Lights is probably my favorite act and this would have been the experience of a lifetime. This was also a major low when the event was canceled. So much hard work, anticipation, and excitement- gone.
Question 4: With all of your accomplishments in dance music pulsing in and through Colorado, you must know the state’s scene and industry like the back of your hand. What do you feel Colorado does the best when it comes to throwing shows?
Answer 4: Colorado knows what’s up. Our promoters know what the fans want, they listen to what they don’t want, and by doing so- provide an unmatched live entertainment experience. The BASS Capital for a reason, Colorado is home to EDM and I see it to be at the forefront of the scene, always have. So much underground, crunchy music that is experimented with and debuted here.
We have it all, Trance, DnB, House, Dubstep, Big Room- you name it. There is something for everyone. Colorado is the first place I think people think of when it comes to Electronic Music. How many Connecticut flags do you see in each festival crowd? None. How many Colorado flags? At least four, every state. Haha. We represent and travel well.
Question 5: You’re a Texan by birth, so you know the saying “Everything is bigger in Texas.” Do you believe that holds true in the EDM scene?
Answer 5: Texas is no stranger to the EDM Scene. Unfortunately, I was living in Texas back when Mom wouldn’t let me attend concerts. I didn’t get much exposure to the scene here until Euphoria 2014 in Austin. I have since attended Ubbi Dubbi 2019, Austin City Limits 2018, and Euphoria 2015, 2016, 2017 in my great home state and plan to attend more in the future.
Texas has some massive events in the EDM scene and not when it comes to live music. Freaky Deaky, Ubbi Dubbi, Lights All Night, SXSW, Austin City Limits, Float Fest, Houston Rodeo, tons of music. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World.
Question 6: Where aside from Colorado and its vast array of options to view live music, where do you find to be a second-best in the realm of experience and it’s the ability to leave your jaw on the ground?
Answer 6: Up until 2016- I would have said Rothbury, Michigan every June for Electric Forest (now my second favorite festival). However; 5 years ago, a friend talked me into a new experience, we grabbed our passports and headed to somewhere I had never been, Canada. British Columbia, specifically.
For one week out of the year, this private little cattle farm in Salmo, BC transforms into the most incredible festival experiences you will ever be a part of, Shambhala Music Festival. Filled to the brim with some of the nicest people, most incredible private grounds, and the sound… oh-boy the sound. Funktion One and Canada’s own, PK Sound are providing the most quality listening experience you can imagine. Pumping some of the deepest, loudest and overall best sounding music of almost anywhere I have danced. With music almost the entire time, a full-blown river running through it you can float and swim in, or simply hang around and have a beach party- there is always something to do at “Shambs“. How many festivals have you been to that serve fresh burgers, harvested from cows that are raised on-site? Not many. The food, guh. Get a Donair by the Pagoda Stage and Lemonade Stand, whatever the sweet sauce is, you want that AND tzatziki sauce.
I can’t reveal all its secrets, but you need to experience Shambhala at some point in your life. One of the longest-running, non-corporatized, most badass festivals in the world. With the coolest mix of people, all ages, there for one thing: a great time with even greater people.
Question 7: What events, companies or artists who have drifted away with the power of time, do you wish would make a comeback?
Answer 7: Pretty Lights, of course. But we won’t go there, I am too passionate. Other favorites who have kind of dropped off would include Savoy and Clockwork (RL Grime side project), both of which I had the pleasure of seeing live more than once. Lastly, Swedish House Mafia because I never got to see them as a group.
Some events or festivals I would like to see make a return are Wakarusa, another festival I didn’t ever get to experience, but heard great things about. Wakaan utilizes the same venue as Wakarusa, so it may be the closest I can get. Also it may be the only festival that happens this year since it isn’t until October. May have to check that one out this year.
I would love to see Euphoria Music Festival in Austin, Texas make a comeback. It is there where I first met and truly fell in love with a lot of my festival family and the festival life itself. It is also home to the Dragonfly Amphitheater, one of my favorite festival stages ever! A small amphitheater setting with the river as a backdrop and just stacks of people all over with some rowdy music. Ugh, such a fun vibe.
Lastly- Middlelands by Insomniac. If you know, you know. But that was an incredibly executed inaugural festival that only got one year in before being told it couldn’t return. Local residents voted to not have the event back to the Texas Renaissance Festival Grounds after hundreds of noise complaints poured in over the weekend. Too bad too- the lineup, production and, venue was spectacular. Think Medieval Times meets a music festival.
Question 8: With all the monumental changes that Red Rocks has gone under over the years, there is lots to critique and analyze as a veteran to the State Park. What’s the best parking lot at Red Rocks? What the best food to munch down on in between sets? What’s your view on the controversial sound ordinance?
Answer 8: Depends on what you want out of your tailgating or lot-party experience. Personally, my favorite lot is, Upper North. It gives you access to the top entry where you can descend down into the amphitheater, take in the views and shop for merch, food, and drink. Or you can choose to take the trail down from the lot and be spat out to the bottom to get your spot as close as possible. Upper North is where all the homies link up, crack a cold one, or grill up some brats before we head in.
If you don’t have time to get there early and tailgate, there are some options inside for food. My personal favorite is up top, Biker Jims Dogs. Wild Game links like Elk Jalapeño, Bison Cheddar, and more topped with some cream cheese, coca-cola sautéed onions on a steamed hoagie roll is flavor-packed, and just what you need before a night of dancing.
As far as the sound ordinance goes, some things are necessary. While I don’t want to accept it and wish the music was as loud as it used to be, we can’t change it. Long story short- extended periods of amplified sound takes a toll on the integrity of the rocks. We want generations after us to enjoy these rocks just as generations before we arrived, did. Preservation is the only way to ensure that happens, we can’t be selfish. Unpopular Opinion: You could make Red Rocks a silent disco, exclusively, moving forward and I think I would be okay with that. But most wouldn’t, so this was the only other option.
Question 9: With over 100 visits to Red Rocks, you must have been waiting in line on several occasions that took way too long. What has been your favorite moment and least favorite moment while waiting your turn to have the magic electronic ticket scanner to let you in?
Answer 9: Oh certainly, favorite moment(s) would have to be meeting new people who have never been and it’s their first time. Hearing how excited they are for it makes me even more excited for them. I will never forget my first walk into the amphitheater. The most important thing to me is to never take that setting and its accessibility for granted. Which is why I find myself turning around, my back to the stage and facing the crowd and towering monoliths throughout the show. To be sure and soak it in, truly be there and in that moment. Because each moment is special. Now more than ever with COVID-19 so prevalent, I am realizing just how special those moments were, are, and will be again once this is all over. Let me tell you, I am going to have an entirely new perspective and appreciation for our scene on the other side of this mess.
Least favorite moments are when you pull up and the line is already massive, somehow. You are hours early, but not early enough. Time to make new friends and go with the flow. Other less than favorable moments are when you have to fight the rain or snow while just standing there waiting to get in. Once you are inside and the music starts, it’s not as big of a deal. But sitting out there in the rain or snow without music and fighting to stay warm is a challenge sometimes.
Question 10: What up and coming new and exciting things are you planning for the spring and summer of 2020? More shows? Dare I ask, but, less shows?
Answer 10: I had to change the answer to this question a few times due to the constantly evolving world pandemic, and it really hit hard. For so many friends and colleagues, the music industry is home and all we know. But that all changed, and the uncertainty of it all is the worst part. Everything has halted, not only in the music industry but, the world. We are all coming together in this time and learning how to live in our new reality. Streaming online to get funds for those impacted, having zoom parties with the crew, and checking on each other. I can’t stress enough how important it is to check on your extroverted friends right now, we are not okay. One of my friends likes to sneak videos of us going wild, and those are getting me through right now. Seeing all of us together, not a care in the world, fully expressing how we feel in that moment. Our truest selves.
No one knows when this will come to an end, but I can assure you, when it does- the people will dance, sing, and unite once again at home on the dance floor. Where we belong.
Thank you so much, Blake. You have been such a great friend over the years and I am honored that you have been so willing to give us such a proactive and thorough response to the project when we were at such an early age!
We cannot wait to see you flourish in the world of dance music and beyond. You are the future of our generation’s up and coming talent on the business end of music. Our hats are off to you!
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