Olympic gold medalist and Bad Things guitarist Shaun White’s latest project combines two of his biggest passions: snowboarding and music. On February 21 and 22, White will present Air + Style: Los Angeles, a two-day event set to feature 32 winter sports–competing athletes and 18 bands performing in the shadow of a 16-story, 450-foot long snow ramp at the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Kendrick Lamar, Diplo, the Flaming Lips, Sleigh Bells, Phantogram and Steve Aoki are among the acts set to perform; snowboarders and skiers, 16 of each, will also compete, with Olympians Sage Kotsenburg, Mark McMorris and Joss Christensen in the ranks. Fuse caught up with Shaun White to discuss Air + Style, his earlier experiences with other music-related festivals, and which acts he's especially psyched about.
This is the first time Air + Style is happening in Los Angeles, but the event has quite a history, right?
Shaun White: Yes, absolutely! The event started back 21 years ago in Austria. It started out as more laid-back kind of thing where snowboarders would come together and hang out. It was a way to promote the sport. It changed a couple of years later when a lot of people started showing up and the people that put it together had to find a bigger venue. I got invited to the event for the first time in the early 2000s. I won the event for the first time in 2002, and it was a big moment for me.
How did you go from competitor to host?
The first time I hosted was five years ago, when the event was held in Beijing. I remember showing up and being like an ambassador for snowboarding. I did a lot of educating for the people in China about the sport during my interviews with the media there. I found out through that process that I actually enjoyed that part of it.
It’s great that Air + Style is finally coming to the States.
I was talking to Andrew Hourmont—he’s the creator of the event—and I asked him what it would take to bring Air + Style to America. Once the door was open, he laid everything out and let me know what it would take to be able to pull it off. It was a lot of stuff [laughs].
On the non-snowboarding side, you have a pretty wide-ranging musical lineup.
That was always the goal. I play in a band, and I’m obviously a big music fan, so I wanted a nice mix-up of music styles to make it a truly diverse thing. Selfishly, I like a lot of these artists, so it was also a great chance for me to check some of the ones I haven’t seen live yet. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is such a great band, but this will be the first time I’ve seen them play live. I’ve always been a big Black Lips fan, but I’ve also never seen them live. I put together a list of my favorite bands and started going through it to see if we could book them or not.
That said, I’m sure it’s going to be tough to catch some of the musical sets since you’ll be pulled in a thousand different directions during the two days.
Man, tell me about it! They’re already like, “Okay, which acts do you absolutely have to see play?” So, yeah, I’m making a list of the bands I can’t miss this year. It’s not going to be easy [laughs].
Going back to your childhood, do you remember what your first musical festival experience was like?
I went to an Ozzfest when I was 16. It was the first time I got to see my dad rocking out. I remember being in the crowd and getting sprayed by a hose and the entire crowd being drenched. I was like, “This is incredible!” As I got older I made my way to fests like Coachella and Lollapalooza. Once the Bad Things started, I got the chance to perform at SXSW and the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. So, having been to a lot of these music festivals, and having those experiences, and obviously loving sports so much, helping to put the Air + Style event together has been a dream come true for me. It’s a pretty heavy thing, actually.
–Interview and text by Carlos Ramirez