Making a mindful music festival
The creators of Sundown Colorado talk drug- and alcohol-free nightlife, dance and connection.
Hear the word “party,” and you might picture people laughing, singing and dancing – likely with a drink in their hands. And while nightlife culture seems to have integrated intoxicants into every aspect of the modern party, Amber Handby knows that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead, she wants people to “party positive” – to have memorable social experiences through dance and music but without drugs or alcohol. Intoxicants, she says, create an unnecessary filter between people.
“The nightlife industry is pretty out of balance,” said Handby, a 2012 graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver and one of the MSU Denver Alumni Association’s Top 10 Under 10 award winners for 2021. The award recognizes graduates from the past 10 years who are doing exceptional things in their communities.
For Handby and her husband, Mike, that includes organizing and producing Sundown Colorado, Colorado’s first “detox” music festival, that took place Sept. 11 at the RiNo Festival Grounds in Denver. The event was intended to be drug- and alcohol-free and focused on healing, mindfulness and connection.
“There’s been a need for something like this for a long time,” Mike Handby said. “We need to connect with each other more than ever.”
Amber Handby, a marketing professional and singer, met her husband, a DJ and music producer, in a recording studio in 2013. Since then, the two have collaborated in life and in business. They formed the DJ duo DoubleCrush, and co-created Secret Dance Addiction to host virtual and in-person dance parties that blend music, wellness and connection. Mike Handby also owns Ignight Entertainment, which provides DJs, musicians and lighting for weddings and private parties.
The couple’s multifaceted talents have culminated in Sundown Colorado, where festivalgoers enjoyed immersive dance and mindfulness experiences. Main-stage acts included Autograf, Yolanda Be Cool and others, as well as a silent disco, a meditation tent, a local vendor market, food trucks and a sober bar provided by Awake Denver.
Amber Handby hopes that events like Sundown Colorado can provide healthy alternatives that still have all the important elements of a great party – music, dancing and togetherness.
The festival has been described as an event for the “sober-curious,” a movement that encourages a sober lifestyle and, said Amber Handby, redefines what it means to be alive.
“I’m doing what I love, and I want to see more people doing what they love,” she said. “So when you’re sober-curious, I think you’re waking up to your infinite potential.”
The MSU Denver alumna attributes much of her success to the Marketing degree she earned from MSU Denver. She started her college career in Minnesota before transferring to MSU Denver.
“I was already working at that point,” Handby said, so the combination of online classes and on-campus activities was “really empowering because I was able to self-direct.”
Today, she owns Bang Marketing and manages all of the marketing campaigns for Secret Dance Addiction and Ignight Entertainment.
Her marketing expertise is “an incredible resource to have (on the) inside” because hiring an outside marketing agency can be expensive.
“It’s really allowed us to grow because I can do those things for us,” she said.
Handby encourages students with dreams of starting a business to form an LLC (limited-liability corporation) and find a strong mentor, whether that’s a teacher, a partner or an online community. “That is going to be what you fall back on when you don’t know what to do,” she said. “Those are some of the things that helped me along my way.”