When asked to describe the multi-media event that is Life in Color, a rave/paint party/concert extravaganza that defies categorization, promoter Michael Mellon is at a loss for words.
"People dress in spandex and they put balloons on their heads," he says one afternoon from Liquid, the Warehouse District bar where his company Tru Events often books some of the nation's most popular DJs. "It's like a warped Alice in Wonderland meets Cirque du Soleil."
Billed as the "world's largest paint party," Life in Color is a concert and festival production that stages more than 200 events annually in the United States and internationally. Its goal: "to transport fans into the ultimate mind blowing, head bumping and heart pumping electronic dance music experience featuring the world's biggest DJs, soaring aerial acts, stilt walkers, contortionists and fire shows...leading up to the ever so famous paint blast."
Mellon says the genesis of the event dates back to 2004 when a group of college kids decided they were bored with the typical party tricks.
"It just took off," he says. "Everyone was used to the foam thing but this was paint. These guys were already promoters and they were doing big shows. They combined the DJ thing with the paint, and it blew people's minds. It became big in the college market first and then it became a tour outside of the college market, though they kept it going in the college market too. Now, I am the Ohio partner and do everything with them in Ohio."
Last year was the first year the tour to came to Ohio. It stopped in Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Cleveland was the last stop on the tour, but it drew the biggest audience, a testament to the city's appetite for electronic dance music.
"Cleveland did the best and sold out," says Mellon. "I want to say it was because how it was launched and marketed and how we put together the talent. So the [organizers] came to me and wanted me to take over Ohio. I told them I just want to do one big Ohio show and I want to do it in Cleveland."
This year's line-up features two hot electronic acts: Carnage and Seven Lions. And in a unique twist, it will also feature local rap sensation Machine Gun Kelly. Evan Evolution, Dominic Parisi, Mimo, DJ EV and Donkis featuring Lauren Lanzaretta with Jon Wilkes also share the bill. Life In Color takes place on Saturday, May 3, at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica; it's preceded by an official pre-party featuring DJ Lucky Date that takes place at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 2, at Liquid. And the official after-party will take place at Shooters following the event. DJ Skribble will spin; tickets are $5 to $10.
"The MGK thing is a little bit of a twist to show Cleveland pride," he says. "But I really wanted an exciting eye-opening thing. He's playing in three other markets too. He'll perform with a DJ. But I'm good friends with Jon Wilkes, the drummer from Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. I often bring him in to perform with other acts. When Krewella played on New Year's Eve, I brought him in to perform with them. He has this crazy light-up outfit and he'll perform live with MGK."
Mellon says that Carnage is "one of the hottest, most sought-after acts right now."
"He's huge and has blown up over night," he says of the Baltimore-based DJ. "He doesn't conform to a genre. You can't say he's house or trance. He conforms to the crowd and plays everything."
And Seven Lions will appeal to the dubstep crowd.
"I knew he was starting his new tour in May and I wanted to get him when he was really hot," says Mellon.
And then there's the paint.
There will be a countdown before sirens go off and a crew comes out with hoses and douses the entire audience with paint — FDA-approved paint, that is.
"They really blast people and it's unbelievable," Mellon says. "It's made to be washed out of your eyes and clothes. I get caught with the bill for cleanup so I can tell you that water takes it right out."
Mellon has been promoting concerts since 2000 and sees Life in Color as just one example of how unique concert experiences can thrive in Northeast Ohio.
"Tru Events is a staple in the local electronic music scene," he says. "We want to give people a good look at Cleveland and create a good string of events around Life in Color. We want to bring the largest and most high-profile electronic dance music events to Cleveland in hopes of giving Cleveland a similar experience to Las Vegas, Miami and L.A."
Life in color
4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore St. Tickets: $55.15, ticketmaster.com.