Written by Scott Edward McDowell and Neil Paul
A city boy through and through, being raised in Baltimore and spending most of my adult life in Brooklyn prior to relocating to Denver, a weekend of celebrating the alternative winter sports culture in Aspen 8000 ft above sea level certainly took me out of my element. I was beyond excited to take on this journey and experience the intersection of alternative sports culture and entertainment in a place known for hosting the world’s elite in a small ski town atmosphere. I brought my longtime hometown friend, DJ Neil Paul, along for the ride. With my intimate knowledge of hip hop and urban arts, and his experience as a DJ/artist in the EDM and snowboarding scenes, we were well positioned to uncover the X Games in a fresh way and the weekend certainly exceeded all expectations.
The Bootsy Bellows nightclub was the official after-party location and went all out to bring the entertainment with headliners DJ Ruckus and T-Pain. Serendipitously, I remembered that my buddy David Arquette founded Bootsy Bellows in LA, and expanded the brand to Aspen a few years back. With David’s help, we were connected to owner/operator Andrew Sandler, who further facilitated our ability to fully experience this epic weekend in Aspen. GM Andy and the entire Bootsy Bellows staff was beyond gracious and hospitable, and the experience of witnessing how hard they worked to bring the party night after night was truly remarkable.
On Friday night, we were able to sit down with DJ Ruckus before his set. DJ Ruckus is not only among the top open-format DJs in the game, he is incredibly personable to be around. We had an incredible 17-minute conversation covering a range of topics, including what the elements of culture mean to him, what he learned from working with Run DMC, what “making it” really means, emerging genres he is excited about i.e. Afrobeats, and his vision for furthering his open format success in the production/writing lane. This 17 minute interview is worth a listen, especially for music fans and really anyone aspiring to develop their own talents:
After the interview, DJ Ruckus proved why he is one of the true greats, taking the crowd on a high energy journey across genres and decades with exciting transitions while reminding us why the art of scratch DJing has not been lost in a world of mainstream EDM. Scanning the room and witnessing athletes, fans, Aspen elites, and people of all walks of life dancing to one beat made this night one I will certainly never forget.
On Saturday, we had the pleasure of going at it again at Bootsy Bellows. This time, T-Pain graced us with his chart-topping vocals, commanding the crowd to sing along in unison with hits such as “Buy U a Drank”. Everyone was rocking so hard that it felt like the structural integrity of the building was in jeopardy. Los Angeles-based DJ Mark Jackson accompanied T-Pain’s performance and brought his set to the weekend. I was able to chat with him for a few minutes about the art of open-format DJing and how his father’s vast musical collection of over 2,000 records greatly influenced his musical IQ:
On Sunday, I stopped by Bootsy Bellows and interviewed Andrew Sandler to recap the weekend and discuss plans to expand the Bootsy Bellows brand into Denver:
All and all, the experience in Aspen for the X-Games is something truly special and I certainly plan on coming back – thanks to everyone who helped make this weekend a huge success!
photos: Kelby Strohm Creative