As Dominic Lalli, the sax man who forms one half of Big Gigantic, introduced "Colorado Mountain High," a projection of the Centennial state's flag draped Ship Rock and Creation Rock. The crowd went wild, and the duo performed its best set yet in front of the capacity throng of Rowdytown, as Red Rocks had been dubbed for the day.
Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken took to their respective podiums on stage promptly at 10:30. Wasting little time with a subtle introduction, as if any were needed, they burst into "Rise and Shine," a fast paced bass-heavy track that was the best possible way to kick things off for the night. Big G's set comprised of tracks from 2009's Wide Awake through the act's most recent release, Nocturnal.
Following the introduction, Big Gigantic played "Sky High" from 2010's A Place Behind the Moon, the album that really pushed Big G into the limelight. Every song on the album is composed perfectly utilizing Lalli's classical jazz training while keeping Salken's insane drum skills in mind. The pair only played a handful of tracks off the album, most notably "Lucid Dreams," which came toward the end of the set.
When the set neared the end and both artists were dripping sweat onto their instruments, you could see, hear and feel the energy. It's clear that the group knows that a great show is more than just the music at this point. So between that energy, incorporating the mapping on the rocks and the stage show, Big Gigantic's inaugural headlining date at the Rocks made for one of the most magical experiences at the venue this summer.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made for a great lead in to Big G's set. After mentioning that the first thing they crew did when they arrived in Denver was hit up a thrift store, Macklemore and Lewis jumped into "Thrift Shop," rocking gear from their visit. The highlight of the act's set came when Macklemore introduced Ray Dalton, who provides the vocal hook on "Can't Hold Us," and when Owuor Arunga joined in on trumpet, displaying chops that would've made Dizzy proud.
After arriving at the venue just minutes before his set was to begin, Dillon Francis walked from backstage to his green room then to the stage. Opening with "Tequila" proved to be a good call given the crowd interaction when the hook takes over. And from there, it was all moombah and moombahton all the time. "Masta Blasta" and "IDGAFOS" both inspired some raucous dancing.
GRiZ, one of the most promising emerging talents in EDM right now, said it took him a few songs to get warmed up, but you would never have known it from his set, as he treated the crowd to cuts like "Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom," his collaborative track with Gramatik that hits so fucking hard. GRiZ's production is on point, and the samples he chooses (one of which was an RJD2 nod) are prime for this sort of show, and adding saxophone only added to the show.
Raw Russ opened the night at Red Rocks, and to a filling venue he played hip-hop, dubstep, drumstep and just about anything else that he wanted. Whether you know him as the face of Elm & Oak or as a vinyl scratching DJ, you know the name. Dancing behind the tables, he frivolously scratched and mixed his way through two decades of hip-hop and dance music before retiring to the side of the stage where he mingled with adoring fans and friends all night.
Personal Bias: Skrillex had previously played the best show of the summer, in my opinion. Rowdytown took over the top spot, and unless someone parachutes onto the stage and plays a blindfolded DJ set with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in perfect unison with fireworks, confetti and free cash falling from the skies, it will keep the title. Big Gigantic did something amazing, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
Random Detail: Ghost Pixel provided the mapping on the rocks, and although it looked cool, it just wasn't bright enough. This being the first time anything like this has happened, I can't wait to see how it builds from here.
By the Way: A quote from Macklemore: "It is not cool to hit me in the face with glow sticks. That shit has never been a part of hip-hop shows."
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