SUNSATION 2002, Copper's Springtime Blowout Bash

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Skiers, snowboarders, telemarkers and townies came out to Copper Mountain, Colorado in throngs last weekend to celebrate (or lament) the final days of the 2002 ski season with the 2nd Annual rowdy bash coined "Sunsation." The two-day event attracted music aficionados with seven decorated bands such as Yo, Flaco! and Ozomatli while carnival sports devotees were replete with remote control car races, climbing competitions, sumo wrestling, tricycle races (between the silver-clad Coors Light girls and the audacious Jim Beam ladies) and the highly anticipated "Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest."The name "Sunsation" optimistically insinuated a warm spring weekend with visors and sunscreen, however in lieu of the tropics, a blast of arctic air and heavy snowfall proliferated and forced down jackets and heavy hats on the jamboree. Luckily, the nip in the air did not impede upon the musicians' ability to raise the outdoor crowds, nor did it thwart people's ability to throw down, have a few cocktails and shake their booties.

The incredible lineup of bands began with Vail-based, "Sucker" on Saturday morning before "Rebirth Brass Band" took the stage donning New Orleans-style funk. After the tricycle races and the Big Air Demo fizzled out, "Maceo Parker" kept the crowds clomping around in their ski boots and throwing back Jim Beam and Coors products to boot. That evening, a Denver-based band named "Yo, Flaco!," who was brought into the national spotlight with help from Jim Beam Music (the label behind up and coming bandsÔ), packed the Indian Motorcycle Lounge to its full capacity until an insidious hour escalating to a signature improv session.Indeed the name "Yo, Flaco! is a curious one that, according to the band, is literally translated as "hey, skinny" but figuratively insinuates a term found on the streets of Spanish Harlem referring to "the all-knowing sage," or "the new and fresh beta" on the streets. During an interview with all eight of Yo, Flaco!'s members they agreed that their name reflected their fresh and diverse musical styles and inspirations.

"We think what we do is unique because of the different musical passions we all have. It is a special kind of music that has a taste of styles like acid-jazz, hip-hop, funk, R&B and soul so that everyone from a little kid to an old lady can relate to it. We feel like it opens doors for people into different kinds of music that they otherwise would never listen to."

Yo, Flaco! has been part of the Denver music landscape for over 13 years whose eclectic flair is becoming widely recognized on the national scene as one of America's top up-and-coming bands. They have had 13 band member changes, finalizing in its current most unified group, gotten the coveted Jim Beam guitar stolen from their house (they now have a high-powered security system in place), and somehow managed to make two landmark albums, "Skeptamistic," aptly named from a combination of 'skeptical' and 'optimistic' and "Goin' At It," which alludes to their strength as a whole and their "wholehearted determination to simply make great music" said lead singer, Neil McIntyre. These two albums have since helped them become Jim Beam's "Best Unsigned Band in America" in 2000, and one of the top three finalists in the American Music Awards Competition for 2002.

The band's success has been nurtured by the Jim B.E.A.M. (Benefiting Emerging Artists in Music) Grant Program, a 10-year old initiative of Jim Beam Music that will give out $100,000 in grant money in 2002 alone, enabling emerging unsigned bands to overcome financial barriers that would otherwise halt their musical careers. In 1999, Yo, Flaco! won the prestigious grant and since, the Jim Beam label has supported the band's efforts undyingly, helping them mature, book gigs all over the country and secure a position in the national spotlight. For this past weekend's show, the band merely had to grab the van and head into the heart of the Rockies too be in the spotlight. "We love playing in ski towns because they attract an incredible diversity of people. Where else can you play for an international crowd in such beautiful places?"

Luckily, Sunday brought highlights of sun to the stages of Yo, Flaco!, Cubanismo and Ozomatli. The 17th Annual Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest was not so fortunate, however as temperatures did not rise past 46 degrees for the afternoon exhibition of 'low-pro' bathing attire. Bold is the word that comes to mind.

Blood was running hot following the bikini spectacle, the highlighted event that increased the event participation tenfold. Directly following, the augmented assembly repositioned themselves to watch bands Ozomatli and the Wendi Woo Band strike the beat once again.

Copper Mountain's "Sunsation" was indeed a weekend of sensational music debuting for free at the bottom of Copper Mountain. As for the arctic-esque temperatures, who needs sun when you can fuel the fire within by doing the ski-boot boogie to some live soul next to a bikini contestant with a cocktail or two in hand? Nobody.