Zedd at Global Dance Festival 2023

For two days every July, the parking lot surrounding the Denver Broncos’ Ring of Fame is transformed to showcase the Denver dance music scene with its pinnacle, Global Dance Festival. Returning for its 20th anniversary show this summer, Global Dance celebrated in style with a wildly diverse lineup across four stages perfectly situated around the stadium lot.

The event was eye capturing everywhere you looked. You were welcomed in by performers bouncing on stilts next to the large, photo op-ready “Global Dance” sign. Along the lawn, tightly woven between the stages stood immense inflatable dragonflies and flowers, providing a place to relax and take in the sun while waiting for your favorite acts. Vendors, VIP upgrade stations, the perfect amount of water stations, and Keep The Party Safe — a new drug safety tent — outlined the paths between the dispersed stages for every need that could come your way.

Getting The Party Started

The gathering unfolded slowly as the guests throughout the city got off from their 9-5 jobs and quickly joined in after an early opening on Friday afternoon. NoahJ, a Twitch streamer with 100 Thieves, opened the festival with what I would describe as the Subway Surfer TikTok of sets. He kept your attention with popular vocals and jumped through every genre you could ask for to kick off your evening. The fans in the Northern Lights stage were along for the ride at every turn.

The Northern Lights stage at the festival was reserved for the heavier acts of the weekend, while the Amazon stage stayed dedicated to floor-thumping house acts. Local talents Bruer and Hostage Situation took to the Northern Lights stage around 4-5:00 PM on separate days and brought the energy out of every member of the crowds. Playing that early, getting the reaction, and filling the massive tent stage that early speaks volumes to the trajectory of these two acts. They are both up and coming in the bass scene. Do not overlook their rise.

A blue dragonfly art displayed in front of Summit Stage.

The Summit Stage acted as the main stage for Global Dance Festival and was home to some of the more mainstream names in the industry. Acts like Loud Luxury, Lost Kings, and masked vocalist and producer Sickick brought the summer festival vibes. From the afternoon hours until the festival ended, the Summit Stage wouldn’t be complete without the viewers dancing to the main stage from the overlooking Colfax bridge. Although they may not be officially attending the festival, the fans looking from above always bring wild energy to the area.

VIP Explorations

The VIP amenities at Global are a treat for all pass holders. From the private, quick-moving bars, exclusive food truck, and air-conditioned bathrooms (honestly worth the price just for this), the VIP pass was every bit worth the upgrade. The entrance around the back of the festival made arriving and beating the crowds out of the show a breeze. All of these pale in comparison to the priority viewing area at the Summit Main Stage. Getting to and from the VIP viewing area was a breeze with a simple flash of a wristband taking you directly to the front of the massive Summit Stage crowd. With VIP Upgrade tents around the venue, getting top-tier perks made for a smooth experience throughout the weekend.

3 performers dressed as dragons, parade around the festival on stilts.

Denver Weather Haunts Global Again

If you have been to Global before (or simply lived in Colorado long enough), you know that the summer brings a mix of heat and unpredictable weather patterns. Global has been hit with severe weather — and, in some cases, cancellations — due to weather in recent years. Most notably, the cancellation of the entire second day back in 2019 deprived fans of the highly anticipated Illenium B2B Excision set.

This year was no exception as just around 7:45 pm local time, the venue staff directed attendees to seek shelter inside the concession halls of Empower Field. There was a warning of lightning storms and hail from the National Weather Service, and until we were given the all-clear, there would be no more music until further notice.

The crowd’s tension and wonder of what would come next could be felt and heard in the murmurs spoken throughout the packed-like-sardines hallways. In the end, mother nature spared us our evening as we only received a select few drops of rain and a nice lighting show to witness from a good distance away.

The show would go on, but highly anticipated acts did lose large chunks of their set times. Deorro was cut short altogether to make time for Alan Walker, while Borgore and Dion Timmer came on to only play about six songs before ending their B2B set.

Crystal Caverns Collective

The Crystal Caverns stage, located under the stadium, was jam-packed with some of Denver’s hottest local talent performing in a silent disco. I did not experience a single trip to the Caverns with less than 50 people down there wiggling their bodies to the frequencies these talented acts were sending to their multichannel headphones. Silent Discos are always one of my favorite places to check out, and this weekend was no exception.

Some Denver club regulars such as Chocolate Drop and Orca played to highly engaged crowds. Other up-and-coming names such as Aarbear and MVRTIAL LVW had me bouncing between their channels to their incredible sets in the dark of the Caverns stage.

Accompanied by massive LED screens behind the three-deck setup, the production was more than I expected for a silent disco stage. With the shade, good tunes, good people, and bars with the shortest lines the Crystal Caverns was a great getaway spot to explore.

A rainbow illumination of the "Global Dance" sign.

Let’s Talk Lineups

When Global Dance Festival’s lineup was announced, I was shocked at people’s initial perception of the acts. Online sentiment honestly didn’t seem that warm, especially with it being a 20th-anniversary show. 

These opinions always baffle me. I, of course, have favorite artists that I love to see, and at the end of the day, big names truly do draw the crowds. But a music festival to me is always a balance between experiencing my favorite artists and discovering my next favorite artists that I didn’t know existed yet. That’s exactly what this lineup gave to many this weekend. An opportunity to diversify the names you know and stumble onto that new genre you never realized would tickle your brain.

This lineup brought phenomenal depth, variety, and inclusive diversity to Denver this weekend. Legends like Green Velvet playing a small intimate house tent, Haliene getting to showcase her massive vocals on the festival main stage, and Buku going B2B with the scratch master Zeke Beats made for some unforgettable experiences. They might not wow you on paper, but they provided a one-of-a-kind moment that you might have missed if your eyes were only focused on the names you knew at the top of the billing.

Closing Out The Main Stage

As each night ended, the most anticipated acts of the weekend closed out the Summit Stage. The undoubted must-see act of the weekend rounded out night one. The newly formed powerhouse EDM duo of Kaskade and deadmau5 took the stage together to perform as Kx5 (pronounced K times 5).

The crowd packed into the open viewing area of the Summit Stage, leaving little space from front to back. The duo came out with their track “Eat Sleep” off their self-titled album released earlier this year. They powered through their set with absolute flawless precision, using call-back vocals to each of their tunes perfectly intertwined with the heavy bass lines of their new project. Vocals to “Beneath With Me” and “Disarm You” could be heard along with deadmau5 callbacks as “The Veldt” blasted through the airwaves to the surprise of every ‘mau5 fan in attendance.

The reaction as the two played out an edit of “Insomnia” by Faithless set the crowd on fire as the set ramped up to the core of their album before finally providing the crowd with the singalong anthem that is “Escape.” These two titans of the dance music industry have perfectly curated a project that blends their sounds so effortlessly, yet each artist’s sound is so uniquely discernable in every track they produce together. This is a set you cannot miss as a house music fan when this duo ventures to your city.

Lasers overhead of the Main Stage crowd night 2 of Global Dance Festival.

As the final day of the festival came to a close, Grammy Award winner Zedd greeted the Denver crowd with a showcase of the vibrant, beautiful lights synonymous with his stage show. Opening with his remix of John Summit’s “Where You Are,” the vocal ensemble had already begun. Working through his hits with A-list vocalists such as Selena Gomez, Matthew Koma, Hayley Williams, and Ariana Grande, he provided the perfect setting to turn Denver into the largest choir the city had seen. Underneath the barrage of fireworks and rainbow lasers, Zedd continued to unleash a house music celebration upon the Denver crowd. Knowing that Denver is known for its love of bass music, Zedd had a creative trick up his sleeve that differed from his other tour stop setlists. Playing with the crowd by starting with Cascada’s – “Everytime We Touch” only to cut the drop to HOL!’s – “Country Riddim” in the middle of his set sent the Denver bass fans into a frenzy (those who weren’t in the mosh pits at Marauda, anyways).

The singalong vibes and the wonderful people in that crowd all weekend long made for a cherry on top of the pilgrimage we take yearly to truly celebrate the Denver dance music scene in all of its glory. I can’t wait to see y’all next year, and this New Year’s Eve at Decadence Colorado.

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