Big Gigantic continues the annual tradition of getting rowdy at Red Rocks with Rowdytown V [Review]
In today’s world, where culture seems to evolve at an exponential rate, four years is quite a long time. Indeed, in the music industry, this timeframe seems like half a lifetime ago. In 2012, Baauer released “Harlem Shake,” Snoop Dogg evolved into Snoop Lion, and Swedish House Mafia embarked on their farewell tour. Meanwhile, Big Gigantic held their first annual Rowdytown event at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.
The funky “livetronica” duo, made up of saxophonist/DJ Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, have been enjoying a steadily increasing amount of success for years–long before headlining Red Rocks for their first time at Rowdytown I in 2012. While the duo has received much wider exposure since that time, the extensive nature of their musical backgrounds is often lost on fans: Lalli holds a Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music and Salken was a touring musician for years before joining Big G.
Lalli and Salken have succeeded in building their audience into one of the biggest families in the world, consistently hosting one of the best annual reunions that a family could have. 2016 marks the fifth year in a row that Big Gigantic have spent a weekend getting heinously rowdy with their Coloradan family at their all-time favorite venue. Over the course of two nights, September 23-24, 2016, Rowdytown V transpired with great success, affirming that the duo’s tradition is very much alive and well.
Photo by Jim Mimna.
Every year, the outfit’s live shows get better, paralleling the quality of their studio releases. Every track off their latest album, Brighter Future, which came out a month before the event, is truly a sensation to witness through Red Rocks’ amazing sound system. The bass hits just a little harder, and the high end is just a little brighter than on their previous albums.
However, as a testament to the duo’s enduring dedication and talents, most of their classics remain set staples, and are well-received regardless of the venue. Just as the evolution of familial relationships tends to create deep connections between family members over time, the experience of following a band such as Big G for long enough to track their progression allows a more meaningful connection to develop between the performers and the audience. Both of their headlining sets at Rowdytown V strongly reiterated this notion, with older songs like “The Night Is Young” and “Nocturnal” feeling right at home among new releases like “Got The Love” or “Wide Open.”
As any good event organizer should do, the Big Gigantic team planned the sets out such people would have good reason to show up early. Thus, on top of the usual crowd who shows up early to tailgate in the parking lot, the Chicago-based duo Louis the Child enticed huge crowds to fill the venue from the very beginning of the event. Not only did the early birds have access the the prime spots, but they also got to experience another Red Rocks tradition that was in full force both nights: the sunset over Denver. A vibrant array of reds, yellows, and purples provided a stunning backdrop to the already beautiful views surrounding the venue.
One key aspect of seeing a show in an ampitheatre is being able to see the rest of the audience. Experiencing first-hand the sheer number of people getting rowdy at any given moment amplifies the energy exponentially, which continues to rise as the sky turns dark and the music turns in a heavier direction. Similarly, being able to see the band is a big part of a concert, especially one in which musicians are playing live, as it allows to strengthen the palpable connection between the audience and the performers. Red Rocks does a great job of this already, but the stage built for Big G this year brought it to another level.
A massive platform situated the group approximately 12 feet above the normal stage, allowing them to perform where everyone in the crowd could see them easily. A slanted LED wall connected the platform to the ground, and together with the two enormous LED screens on winches behind, gave a great dynamic depth to the performance. Although this year did not feature 3D projections on the rocks, there were a few times during Big G’s set where the LED walls behind the stage were lowered all the way down, highlighting the texture of the bare red rocks behind them.
Photo by Jim Mimna.
Rowdytown is not all about Big Gigantic. Yes, Lalli and Salken host the event and headline both nights, but a major point of the concert is to switch up both the opening artists, and the collaborators that the duo brings onstage to join in on a track or two. With the family vibes in full effect both nights, Big G brought guest after guest onstage to perform with them. Some of the guests that helped them out included Probcause, GRiZ (who, much to the excitement of the crowd, played an unreleased Grizmatik track), Ivan Jackson, Jennifer Hartswick, Paper Diamond, Natalie Cressman, and Pell.
From the planning perspective, multi-day events provide a great amount of stimulatory leeway; energy can be built up over both days, while a unique experience is created each individual day. Saturday night sold out weeks before the event rather than days before, as happened with Night One. This discrepancy makes sense when considering that Illenium is a Denver native with a large local fanbase, and OWSLA star Marshmello played the pre-headlining set. The main difference between the event’s two nights, indeed, was spurred on by the contrasting opening acts. These unique sets largely determined the differences in the crowd, which led to very different overall experiences over the weekend’s two halves.
Though Rowdytown is hardly the first two-day event to host the same headlining act on both nights of the bill, the concept posed a rather unique challenge to Big Gigantic. Lalli and Salken had to discern how to provide sets each night that would differ enough from each other to engage attendees who stayed through the festival’s entirety, while keeping their performances consistent enough so those who only went one night wouldn’t miss out on any major moments. Big G played many of the same songs both nights, but with the contrasts provided by their different openers and unique cast of collaborators, the duo switched their performances up enough to make each night unique.
Cheers to another great year of getting rowdy at one of the most iconic venues in the world.
Photo by Live Edits Lab.