Vertex is a First Year Festival Done Right

words and photos by Mia Nissen

Vertex Music Festival at a glance

Visit Vertex, and you might find that being an adult comes with just as much playfulness and exuberance as our precious childhoods did. You can visit the tooth fairy’s humble abode, run around a miniature house filled to the brim with canary yellow balloons, catch a mind blowing set from your favorite artists (I’m looking at you, Odesza) and then have a sleepover with your best friends when it’s all over. Bonus: we are allowed to drink beer now. Yes, growing up is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to suck.

From August 5th-7th, the inaugural year of Vertex hit Colorado and left us all wanting more. The wonderfully curated three-day festival had us all thinking that Madison House can read our minds. From unique daytime field trips, a beach area where all could gather on oversized swan floats, and set times that didn’t make us have to choose, Vertex gave us everything we didn’t know we even wanted.

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Music genre: Funk, house, jam band, rock, chillhop

Camping: Yes, yes, yes. Vertex wouldn’t be complete without camping, made extra special by waking up to the beautiful Rocky Mountains every morning. RV camping and car camping are intermixed at this festival, which I am a huge fan of. The distance from campgrounds to gates was easily walkable no matter where you were parked, and for those who couldn’t stay all weekend, day parking was available for $10. Just be aware that you’ll have to move your car within an hour after the music ends.

The Vertex masterminds also made sure to include glamping options for those looking to have a more luxurious getaway. Tree Line VIP boasted set-up tents that came equipped with access to electricity. One step up is the VIP Creekview Tents, which can fit two campers, costs $1799, and is complete with a front porch, wooden flooring, real beds, and electricity. Take it up another glamorous notch, and festivalgoers could splurge on a lockable Creekside Cabana, also with a real mattress, electricity, and all things needed to make Buena Vista feel like home. Each cabana can accommodate two guests, and costs $2449 for the weekend.

Capacity: For this inaugural year 8,000 people were in attendance, making the festival feel exclusive and intimate for all who attended. I foresee the festival reaching up to 20,000 attendees within the next couple of years.

Crowd type: Trendy / Ravers / Young / Family

Water stations: Yes

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For the first-timers

There are two main routes to Buena Vista, one of those being the scenic byway through old mining town Leadville, Colorado. Choose this route to see some beautiful mountain views and examples of Colorado’s rich history. This route also promises to have less traffic heading to the festival than the alternate way through Breckenridge.

Being a first year festival, attendees could only rely on best judgment and a weather app when it came to packing. Keep in mind that Colorado is the Erratic Weather State, so it is crucial to pack efficiently and check the weather beforehand. Days can change from blazing hot to pouring raining in the blink of an eye, and its a pain to keep running back to camp to change, so bring a windbreaker and make life simpler.

Standout food

While it is hard for me to stray too far from pizza at festivals, I am all for trying out new beers. Vertex offered an extensive craft beer menu featuring many Colorado-brewed beers. I tried out the new Breckenridge Mango Mosaic Pale Ale, and was oh so satisfied with my choice. Prices are obviously inflated at $9 for a pint, but it wasn’t enough to scare me away (or regret the decision). Breckenridge Brewery crafted an amazing beer, and it was only one on an impressive list.

Stage layout

During the day, Vertex attendees could catch some tunes and some sun at the Bee Vee Beach Club. A small DJ booth adorned in fluttering butterflies featured artists that complimented sunbathing, floating, and dancing in the sand. The Beach Club was in a separate area from the main festival grounds, giving everyone the chance to change up the views.

The main festival area held three stages: La Hacienda, Princeton Garden, and Cottonwood Parlor. La Hacienda was a smaller stage that was home to morning yoga and mainly Americana, string, and jam bands. Princeton Garden and Cottonwood Parlor were the main stages that featured “big” names: Odesza, Gramatik, Alabama Shakes, etc. The Vertex team constructed the two stages across from each other in an open field that made it easy to walk back and forth from each set. No two set times at these stages overlapped, allowing everyone to see every act— no need to negotiate or end up alone after a set.

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Musical highlights

During Saturday’s beach lounging, a funky fresh “B2Beach” Set from DJ ZJ accompanied by Jesus and Zoidis of Lettuce kept partygoers moving and grooving with the sand beneath their toes.  It was simultaneously exciting and laidback, and provided the perfect preview to the funk that Lettuce would bring later that night.

A huge part of me wants to gush about Odesza, because those boys, their relentless energy, and melodic tunes rocked the mountains and delivered a performance that couldn’t be beat. But instead, I’m going to take the opportunity to tell you about a somewhat lesser-known great that also shook up the place. Robert Delong, with his powerful vocals and mad drumming skills took my whole being by storm. An artist with electronic and indie backgrounds, DeLong currently resides in Denver, Colorado, and proved his ability to perform as a one man band. Check out this video to see what I mean.

Things to do

  • River rafting
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Disc Golfing
  • Exploring the town of Buena Vista
  • Beer drinking
  • Sun bathing
  • Star gazing
  • Silent disco

VIP or nah

VIP at Vertex really does gives the bang for the buck. I am always up for spending the extra money on a shower after day two of a festival; access to VIP lounges, on-stage viewing areas, full bathrooms, and an intimate Creekside campground (where you can choose your own campsite) is definitely tempting. Though prices may seem steep, all this plus complimentary early access to the festival makes VIP worth it if you have the dough to spend. But if you’re saving for something else, General Admission camping still gives you indescribable mountain views and plenty of new friends to meet.

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Story corner

Vertex marked my seventh camping festival and the first I planned on attending solo. Buena Vista is three and a half hours away from my house so I wasn’t scared for this adventure, but I was clueless about how the weekend would go. A few days prior to the event, I received a message from a girl on Twitter who also was attending solo. She asked if I wanted to meet up, and being the naturally trusting and spontaneous person I am, I said yes. When I met her she had already made two other friends at breakfast that morning; within five minutes of being at Vertex I had three new friends with almost no effort. We spent all of or time together, laughing and dancing until the cold overtook our bodies and it was time for sleeping. The power of social media and an open mind can work wonders when it comes time for a festival! I realized after this first solo festival outing that it is so easy to make friends in an atmosphere that promotes fun and positivity, and you will never leave a festival without a new friend or two.


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