By on March 7, 2018

The man behind the Intergalactic Ball is an ambassador of music and people

Jeff Stein (Hannah Hardaway)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Ten years ago, Jeff Stein threw himself a birthday party, invited everyone and told them they were going to outer-space and should dress accordingly. He seeded the party with local and visiting electronic music artists, a strategy that has become his signature move over the years.

“The kind of party that I wanted to attend wasn’t happening in Jackson so it made sense to throw it myself,” he said. From that the annual Intergalactic Ball was born. The homegrown birthday party with a spacesuit dress code would set him towards a life of fostering music, art and culture in small-town Wyoming.  

In the years between that party and the tenth annual Intergalactic Ball, Stein has worked tirelessly to build something potent and memorable in the valley and beyond. With the help and support of his friends and community, he launched his production company Nomadic Events. He co-created the multi-day Contour Music Festival, which brought Thievery Corporation and Deltron 3030 in its inaugural year, and curated countless art-, culture- and music-centric gatherings. 

For Stein and people like him, they don’t appear to choose the path—necessity and curiosity select the path for them. Stein has been drawn to unique art and music experiences for as long as he can remember. “While I was in college I attended my first festival, Bread and Puppet—an East Coast gathering of food, theater, art and music. It was my first experience with art blending into music and culture in a unique and exciting way. I was blown away.” Attending festivals became a huge part of Stein’s life, but when he moved from Vermont to Jackson Hole in 2000 he was constantly hungry for culture. “I just wasn’t getting this alternative experience I craved. Eventually I started to see that instead of leaving to get it, I should be bringing it here and sharing it.” 

One thing you may not notice about a Stein gathering or party is the attention to detail. And that’s how he prefers it. He wants you to leave his events feeling that you’ve been scooped up into a warm embrace without necessarily knowing how or to what end. This ethos is the backbone of what Stein does; he makes it easy to feel at home in unique, boundary-pushing environments that have comfort and fun baked in by design. “I was very inspired by experiences I had at places like The Grove in Bend, Oregon, where events felt truly special. With so many little details attended to, like lighting, quality sound and decoration, you feel taken care of. After experiencing that I wanted to create it here in Jackson. Essentially a party that was more than just a party.” His “Dapper” series, for example, was a monthly party held at The Kitchen with an inventive roster of DJs, rotating art exhibits and a dress code that asked the beanie and flannel crowd to step it up.

Events like the IGB, Contour and Dapper have a few interesting things in common. The main thread seems to be a strong dedication to diversity. Stein, who DJs under the moniker DJ Jefe, has unilaterally committed himself to “bringing fresh, alternative talent to light” not just from other parts of the world, but from Jackson Hole as well. He fosters local DJs, artists and musicians, like this author, by incorporating Jackson talent into nearly every shindig he throws. And by some slight of hand, he has managed to bring world-renowned talent to Jackson Hole despite the town’s small number of partygoers. Many, like turntable royalty Barisone, The Librarian and El Papa Chango, say they come back year after year strictly because Stein has introduced them to a special community here. “Jackson is a town that I will always make time to play in,” said Andrea Graham, a.k.a. The Librarian. “It’s gorgeous, welcoming and filled with some of the best people around.”

Stein invites new friends and old, Graham said, gathers them together in a stunning mountain town, adds music and sits back while the whole pot simmers. It is party-making with a curated twist that is hard to match.

Ten years on this path, Stein remains impossibly joyful in his endeavors, laughing and shrugging it off when asked how he does it. But even if he makes it seem effortless, it’s hard to ignore the work and dedication that goes into what he creates. That is the magic of it, building worlds in one day that appear to have been there for years.

About Josi Stephens

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