Some of the hottest electronic DJs will make their way to Whistler this weekend (March 1 to 3) for AWOL Snow, the winter rendition of the popular festival series that’s focused on fostering a community of likeminded people through dance music.
“We’re very much building a community as opposed to an event,” said AWOL founder and CEO Matthew Martinez. “Even though we have great destinations like Whistler or Cabo (San Lucas) and we have great DJs that we bring in, everybody’s main takeaway is always all the cool people that they meet … The music is the common bond, so we just invite people that we think will make the party better.”
AWOL, which stands for A Way of Life, began as a side-project for Martinez in 2010 when the first event in Mexico was held. The festival attracted such a positive response from the electronic dance music (EDM) community that is has since expanded into sister events in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe for last year’s AWOL Snow, with more international locations in the works. This year marks the first time AWOL attendees, or “lifers” as they’re known, will hit Whistler’s dance floors, with a roster of emerging EDM DJ’s — Donald Glaude from Seattle, Vancouver’s own Felix Cartal and Swedish bombshells Rebecca & Fiona — headlining.
“We went up and checked Whistler out in November … and there was something that Tahoe lacked, a very communal feel,” said Martinez. “We felt that AWOL and Whistler aligned in that area. Everything is all-together, there’s a really good flow in the Village.”
Martinez wants to distinguish AWOL from other electronic music festivals by attracting a more established, mature guest that’s looking for more than just three days of non-stop partying. (Although there’ll be plenty of that too.)
“Why AWOL has grown exponentially over the last two-and-a-half years is because people go and they can have meaningful or intelligent conversations,” he said. “It’s people that are established, people with disposable income, people that have already done the electronic dance circuits and all the festivals. They want to go hear that music, but they want to hear it and be surrounded by a bunch of good people.”
That communal atmosphere is one of the reasons many lifers keep coming back to AWOL, said Martinez, with the majority of first-time attendees hearing about the festivals via word-of-mouth. Another reason for its ongoing success is that Martinez and his team tailor their programming to suit the host market without being swayed by the fluctuating trends in electronic music.
“We try to focus on not necessarily what is the most popular,” said Martinez. “There’s a lot of EDM right now that’s popular that most people that have been listening to EDM for a long time don’t necessarily want to hear. It’s a little too commercialized for them, so we’re trying to go for just really good music.”
While the typical AWOL crowd is certainly a discerning one, returning house DJ and producer Anthony Attalla, who will perform during Saturday’s après ski at Buffalo Bills, said it’s a festival audience unlike any he’s experienced.
“I can truly attest to the originality of playing to an AWOL crowd,” he wrote in an email to The Question. “At times you'll have crowds that are educated to the music, classy, respectful, positive, and well received, yet rarely can you combine all these elements at one event. Somehow the organizers at AWOL have accomplished this magical concoction, which in turn makes the artist’s job that much more enjoyable.”
Festival packages include tickets to all of the weekend’s events, your room at participating hotels and access to discounts at local restaurants and lift tickets from Whistler Blackcomb. All of the packages for the Adara Hotel are sold out, but there’s still some available for Aava Whistler.
For those not requiring accommodation, there are still event passes available for $100, and day passes, which will range from $25 to $30, will be available for purchase at the door.
DJs will be spinning during après ski from 2 to 7 p.m. at Buffalo Bills. All the night-time events will be held at Garfinkel’s.
Visit www.tryawol.com for the full festival lineup, or to purchase tickets.