Photos by Jess Bernstein
Meow Wolf is an art company based in Santa Fe, Mexico that is known for it’s creative and immersive art installations “that transport audiences to fantastic realms.” Meow Wolf is an art collective that was formed in 2008 and now comprises over 400 artist members. These artists work across medias – include architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, music, audio engineering, costuming, and much more. Meow Wolf is known for creating interactive art exhibits where attendees can interact with the art installations. The House of Eternal Return is a mystery house in Santa Fe with portals to other dimensions. Meow Wolf has four new immersive experiences coming! The Kaleidoscape dark ride is now open in Denver plus four whole new Meow Wolf’s are opening in Las Vegas in 2020, Denver in 2021, with Washington D.C. and Phoenix to follow.
With Meow Wolf announcing a new immersive experience in Denver, they also created a music festival just for Denver: Dark Palace. Meow Wolf does another music festival called Taos Vortex in Taos, New Mexico in August. This festival is more jam bands and indie vibes, whereas Dark Palace was all EDM.
Dark Palace took place across 3 days, later in the evening from 7:30 PM to 2 AM everyday. This gave time to explore Denver during the day, or work like some of us freelancers have to do on weekends. The festival was held at the Western Stock Show Complex in a building where there is usually agricultural events. The converted complex was turned into two stages, one main stage in the oval stock ring area with high vaulted ceilings and a second stage in the surrounding hall areas, along with a chill zone, multiple art installations and rooms, and food vendors.
The Hall Stage was the second stage but had equally as impressive of a lineup as the Main Stage. Friday saw Option4, Jimmy Edgar, JLin, Öona Dahl, and Guy Gerber. Saturday saw Nadasound, LYFTD, Mikey Thunder, Megan Hamilton and Mass Relay. Sunday saw Morgan G, Eli Escobar, Krystal Klear and Lauren Lane. This stage had an interesting LED screen in front of the DJ booth that created the effect of a hazy screen. Crazy visuals like aliens doing yoga or aliens twerking were projected across this screen, but you could still see the shape of the DJ behind.
The Main Stage was in a big oval arena with massive vaulted ceilings. Around the back and sides were bleachers for people to sit and watch from the sides. The stage was created from seven pillars of varying heights that created a semi-circle around the DJ booth, as well as three smaller ones in the front. Then behind these were more taller columns in the background and then also pyramids on the very ends. All of these had internal lights and also had projections across all of them. Friday saw Steve Darko, J. Worra, MK, and Claude VonStroke. Saturday saw VCTRE, Late Night Radio, Shlohmo, and CharlestheFirst. Sunday saw MeSo, Of the Trees, Shades and Dirt Monkey.
Besides the two stages, there was also a large area called the Chill Zone. This was filled with astro turf, bean bags, glowing chairs, and art installations along the walls. This was where all the performers were at, including performances by the Rainbow Militia, the Girls of Denver and Psychopomps. Some of the roaming performers were in costume and wandered around interacting with people for large sections of the night. Other performers were on aerial silks. This was a cool place for people to sit down, relax, and take a break from dancing.
Since Meow Wolf is an art and event company known for their art installations, I was expecting some crazy, cool art within the festival. However, it seems like they were more interested in the music than the art and rightfully so, as it was a music festival after all. They had a few small rooms that came off the sides of the circular hallway with the food vendors and bathrooms. Each of these rooms had a different theme – one was a chill out lounge with a bunch of different textured pillows and blankets, one had different projection visuals going across all the walls, another was filled with things made out of latex, and another had a wall with the words “Eat Queer Art For Breakfast” as well as varying shapes and materials to make vaginas across the walls. While interesting, the art installations seemed tame compared to many of the other things Meow Wolf does.
Overall, I thought this was a fun, little festival and a great overall experience for a first time ever event. The sound production and stage setups were top notch, the big warehouse space was perfect, and the location in downtown Denver was amazing. However, there were some serious lines to get in, lines to check coats and pick them up and an overall lack of art. But, for the first time ever doing a festival, Meow Wolf really brought a nice lineup and next level stages and sound and I can only see this festival growing from here.