This weekend marks an important milestone for music producer and local Aspen DJ Bridger Haas.
At the age of 24, Haas (stage name “Haasy”) played several sold-out shows across the state of Colorado. He’s shared the stage with world-famous artists, previewing Kaskade and Zedd at Belly Up, Two Friends, Chris Lake and Malaa at Boulder Theater, and he’s also made headlines at shows at Fox Theater in Boulder and Belly Up.
On Saturday, Haas will take the stage at Ford Park in Vail for his biggest sold-out show to date, playing in front of thousands of people at the Powabunga Music Festival.
“This is my first time playing at a music festival and I’m excited,” Haas said in a recent interview. “When I think about my music goals, it’s a huge milestone – one I will never forget.”
Powabunga founder and curator Austin Gavlak, also a respected name in the Aspen DJ community, kicked off the weekend festival in March 2019. Inspired by his time in big cities like Berlin and Barcelona and festivals like Burning Man, Gavlak wanted his favorite elements of these big music scenes to the mountains.
“Music has always been an important part of my life, and for a long time I spent half of the year in the mountains and the other half in bigger cities,” Gavlak said in a telephone interview. “I was inspired to found Powabunga to bring people in mountain towns to a first-class production with international DJs in an intimate location.”
Originally to celebrate ski culture in spring, the first Powabunga Music Festival took place in Vail and featured artists such as Zhu, Bob Moses, BoomBox and Justin Jay. The experience was acclaimed and made Powabunga one of USA Today’s Top 10 Best Emerging Festival Winners.
Gavlak quickly got down to the Powabunga plans for 2020, curating a show for the Vail graduation weekend in April, and adding another location for the festival in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Both lineups were announced, tickets were sold and then the two shows were canceled due to COVID-19.
Looking to return this year, Gavlak has hosted a winter festival in Vail, and according to posts on the Powabunga Instagram account, the line-up for a spring 2022 festival in Lake Tahoe is slated to be announced in the near future. According to Instagram posts, 2020 ticket holders have the option of using their purchased tickets for this year’s shows or getting a refund.
The line-up this weekend includes headliners Rufus Du Sol and Bob Moses, followed by Vintage Culture, Channel Tres, Elderbrook and many other popular artists. Local DJ legends such as Haas, Alex Golden (artist name “GOLDEN”) and Gavlak himself will also put on sets and bring a varied mix of electronic, dance and house music to the mountains for the first winter-style Powabunga.
“We are fortunate to work with some of the greatest artists in the world and it is exciting to have them partake in the experience,” said Gavlak. “And to have DJs from Colorado and Aspen playing too – it’s an inclusive community.”
Though Gavlak, Golden, and Haas are at different points in their music and DJ careers, they all attribute Aspen its elitist, supportive, and affordable DJ community. The three musicians have played many of the same venues around town with interconnected relationships and experiences, and built each other through and through different avenues of the industry.
Gavlak, who now lives between Aspen and Los Angeles, came to Aspen for a ski season in the early 2000s and “fell in love” and was extremely involved in the local music and party scene. As a DJ, he has played at Belly Up, local restaurants and bars, and numerous private events over the years. The Aspen experience, said Gavlak, had opened “crazy doors”, including performances in Egypt and Baja, which excites his international presence.
Gavlak recently held a residency at the Snow Lodge pop-up lodge at the foot of Ajax, curating music for the après restaurant and club, and collaborating with other local DJs, including Haas.
Haas returned to Aspen from Denver about a year ago and quickly connected with Gavlak. He started playing regular weekly gigs at Snow Lodge – the hotspot in town – last winter, when the COVID-19 restrictions were still in place. With Gavlak’s support, Haas expanded his network and talent to other local venues and producers. He was particularly successful this summer with gigs ranging from the Escobar and 7908 late night club scene to major appearances in the Belly Up.
When he’s not hanging up, Haas spends the weekdays in his home studio making his own music. His songs have hit over 100,000 streams on Spotify – the latest track, entitled “Changes”, hit 800,000 streams.
He explained how he makes his music for his brother, who died last year, and now dedicates every song to him – his best friend and biggest fan.
“My brother gives me meaning, and most of the songs I write I try to make a story, I never want to make a meaningless song,” said Haas. “Even if the lyrics don’t suit him or something, he’s my greatest inspiration.”
He mentioned that returning to Aspen was an important step in his career because of the legendary venues and the people he could meet like Gavlak.
“My dream has always been to tour and play festivals, and when Austin asked me in May if I would play at Powabunga, I was so excited,” said Haas.
In addition to making music and founding Powabunga, Gavlak has launched two other community-oriented, Aspen-focused projects – Buckhorn Social Club and Ski House – which have created a platform not only to start his own career, but also to provide opportunities for local djs doing the same thing.
As a co-founder of Ski House and one of Buckhorn’s resident DJs, Golden has worked closely with Gavlak to curate and produce unparalleled party experiences for the Aspen ambience.
“Buckhorn is cool because it’s these really nice parties out in nature that are community centered, and then Ski House is those funky pop-up, vintage ski-themed music parties that we have in Aspen and other hill towns . “Said Golden. “And it’s so much fun because none of these mountain towns has anything like nobody’s doing it.”
For the after-party sets this weekend in the Dobson Arena, Buckhorn will host the late-night event with “GOLDEN” on Friday with an international cast of women, and Ski House will host on Saturday.
Tickets for the after-party sets are separate from the main event and were recently posted on the Powabunga website.
Golden started DJing for fun about five years ago and played for her friends in the small apartments on Waters Avenue. Since then she has made a name for herself in Aspen – and now in Miami, New York and other parts of the world – as a “lifestyle DJ” with a niche house music style.
She has been spotted behind the DJ booth in various locations around town, from Red Onion and Gray Lady to The W Rooftop, The Snow Lodge and Belly Up. Golden recently released her first own track with Ryan Golbus, another big name in the local DJ scene.
“The support from this community is wild,” said Golden. “I mean, I’ve grown faster as a DJ here than anywhere else – Aspen is a great place to start.”
While she and Gavlak played at the first Powabunga Festival in 2019 and were due to appear at both Spring Shows in 2020, this year’s Festival Haas is entering a new arena and phase of his career.
From DJing fraternity parties during his college years at the University of Colorado at Boulder to sharing the belly up stage with artists like Zedd, the name of “Haasy” now printed on the Powabunga lineup has already begun to open more doors for the young and talented DJ.
He mentioned that plans are in the works for future music festivals across the country and he will soon begin filming his first music video in one location in Aspen.
“I’ve already got a bit of momentum, but I think 2022 will be the biggest breakout year for me,” said Haas. “Powabunga is the starting signal for something big.”
With six new, unreleased songs to debut during his 45-minute set on Saturday – a set he has been preparing over the past three weeks – Haas is ready to kick off day two of Powabunga as a first gig at 2 p.m. Golden will play the “Sunset” show on Friday at 4 pm and Gavlak will take the stage on Saturday at 5:15 pm.
“When I do these sets for a show, I try to create a story that makes people dance and have fun,” said Haas. “I’m saying this, since I’ll be the first person on Saturday, I’ll set the pace – I’ll be up there for 45 minutes and I’ll give it my all.”