My name is John and I attended Minus Zero in both 2016 and 2017. Let me tell you all about it!
When I think of festival season, 99% of my memories involve t-shirts and sunblock. Here in New England we're used to the cold and snow for the other 8 months of the year. When we heard of a winter festival coming to Stratton Mountain in Vermont, how could we pass it up?
Minus Zero originated in Wrightwood, California at Mountain High Resort in 2015, and moved to Vermont the next year. I had just caught the festival bug from TomorrowWorld 2015 (R.I.P) and when I found out about Zero moving so much closer for 2016, I immediately bought myself a day 2 ticket to catch Kaskade. It’s barely a three-hour ride from Boston to Stratton. Worth it.
One of the first pleasant surprises of this festival is the free, ample parking. Tailgating was permitted in 2016 but not 2017. They even provide shuttles between the lots and main ski lodge. I wasn't carrying any snow sports gear so I typically just walked; it’s not that far.
Upon entering a few things became obvious; this was not your typical festival because of just how intimate it is. The DJ's and crowds always seem to be in sync. The main stage and spectating area easily tripled in size from 2016 to 2017.
You had to exit the festival to enter the lodge for the bathroom, which meant getting re-checked. This wasn't a major issue as 2016 attendance was much lower so security wasn’t overwhelmed.
I enjoyed a great day, made some new friends (who I saw again this year too), enjoyed some tropical house from none other than Thomas Jack (still rocking his typical garb) while in full winter attire, and the legend himself, Kaskade. I made my way home knowing I would return for 2017, no matter what.
The most beautiful part of attending festivals are all the friends you make along the way, and 2016 brought us all together in a bass-filled onslaught I couldn't have appreciated more. By time the season ended we had become more of a family.
Soon after, Minus Zero sent out their 2017 loyalty pre-sales and our tickets were purchased. We also scored an amazing AirBnB less than 15 minutes from the mountain. Headliners were announced and anticipation grew, as Pierce Fulton, Illenium, Griz, Zed's Dead and Bassnectar were all coming to rage in the cold.
Winter dragged on, we waited patiently.
Finally, April came. Carpools were set up and the adventure was on!
We were greeted with a light drizzle, but it turned to snow up on the mountain. The trails are open for shredding during the day, and a bunch of us took advantage.
Snow conditions can be questionable in late April and most mountains close around then. I didn't bring gear but my friends tell me it wasn't too bad considering east coast snow standards.
INSIDER TIP: Consider buying one day lift tickets, your shredded legs and wallet will thank you.
For the other half of us who didn't hit the slopes, we enjoyed music all day. Unfortunately the summit stage was closed day 1 this year because of the constant snowfall. Bummer, because a stage on top of a mountain sounded like a great time. Everyone's festival tickets let you ride the lift to get up there, which was open for day 2.
After a quick trip back home to change and We made our way through the village and I immediately saw just how much larger the festival had become for its second year in Vermont.
The compact Village stage was added below the lodge and acts threw back to last year’s house-heavy main stage and the vendor area was expanded.
Also for 2017 the whole lodge became part of the festival, and everyone had to exit and re-enter through security from 4 - 5pm when the mountain closed. Several people got in trouble for trying to hide in the bathrooms and not wait in line. Staff just started popping out of random doors like ninjas, ushering us out the doors.
I know there were a few issues, mainly Camelbaks not technically being allowed, but I consider these growing pains, as we did not have a single issue with security or event staff.
INSIDER TIP: Wear your hydration pack under your jacket. Mine was not discovered.
The fam assembled and our night began with DudenGuy, but the weather was ominous. It was cold as expected, made worse by a constant snow flurry and wind gusts. Penguin huddles helped.
People continued to fill in, faster as the headlining sets drew near. Marvel Years had a great set, with one small technical difficulty that was promptly fixed. Illenium brought all the feels, remixing The Adventure by Angels + Airwaves that brought an already high energy crowd that much higher.
Then the magic really started to happen.
As darkness fell the snow turned to glitter; the lasers and strobes gleamed through ice and water. Zed's Dead did what they do best and put on one of the most enjoyable sets I've seen of theirs to date. The crowd was always vibing with whoever was performing and always willing to lend a hand to those in need. We forgot the cold.
Just after midnight we all made our way back to our vehicles, and our DD's brought us safely back home to unwind and reflect on day 1.
Saturday morning was spent making pancakes, hash browns and mimosas and screaming about last night’s sets. The morning greeting of 'Happy Nectar Day" was heard throughout our house, and though exhausted from a solid night, we were as ready as we could be for the evening ahead.
We all prepared, planned our rides and headed back to Stratton around 5pm. Everyone was just starting to get shooed out of the lodge to wait in the evening security line.
Upon entering, it became clear just how big the crowd would be for Bassnectar. We got our meals down, filled up on water, found our spot and let the night start to take us away.
Brightside was the first set we were all there for and he killed it, as did Yookie and Pierce Fulton. We have all that footage on our YouTube if you’d like to watch. Unfortunately our GoPro guy needed a water and bathroom break during Pierce.
Griz warmed us up with 'Baby it's Cold Outside' before starting his set; he was ready to bring the funk and did not disappoint. It did seem like the volume for his sax mic was a little low as it was hard to hear over the track that was playing, but being close enough to the stage I could tell it was just a sax-syncing.
Once his set ended the crowd pushed even tighter. The man himself was about to start. There was no background music playing during setup. The silence made us swell with anticipation. We huddled as a group in attempt to stick together in the morphing crowd. Group hugs are also great for keeping warm.
Then, the King of Bass did what he does best: melt our faces completely off. This was my third time seeing Lorin after TomorrowWorld ’15 and Mysteryland ’16. Fourth time will be Electric Forest ‘17 weekend one. I can say it was by far my favorite set of his I have experienced to date.
There were points where the bass frequencies were so low it could barely be heard, only felt. It shook the mountainside and vibrated through my entire body, or should I say soul? Once he wrapped up his set, the fireworks began, and lasted for what felt like hours. The music had stopped, yet the crowd was still, watching and soaking in the last moments of this amazing experience with everyone.
My biggest takeaway from both years of this festival: it has some of the best vibes around. Maybe due to it being the first festival of the season and everyone is just in a good mood to be outside surrounded by great music, friends, and awesome scenery. The Stratton Resort and surrounding neighborhoods are amazing. This is something I’ve heard from many different people, both friends and other festival goers in the Minus Zero Fam Facebook page.
For me personally, the biggest change from last year to this was this family. I made a solo journey to Zero last year, and it was my second festival ever. Since then I've come to befriend more beautiful souls than I could have ever hoped to even cross paths with.
There are always going to be growing pains for new festivals, especially given the climate and location of this event. There will be aspects and sets some enjoy and others do not. One thing is for sure; I can't wait to pick up my tickets for 2018 and see what they have in store for us.
I hope I see all you perfect people there with me.
- John Z, @vrzych
P.S: that's me, bottom far right! Other photo credit: @marabreen @daswami @joho_98.