In 2014, Jeremy Salken was roaming the fields of the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, which had transformed into the grounds of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Amid the vibrant art installations, the Ferris wheel, the palm trees swaying in the wind and the tanned, scantily clad twenty-somethings was an older man in the crowd who had caught Salken’s attention.
“I kind of look at him, and I’m like, ‘Is that Paul McCartney?,'” says Salken, half of the Boulder-grown EDM duo Big Gigantic.
It was. And that brunette standing off stage at the Flosstradamus concert? Yeah, that was Katy Perry.
Three years ago, Salken would have had reason to be a little starstruck. Up until that point, he and his partner in Gigantic, Dominic Lalli, had enjoyed some national success — enough to get them on stage at the Sahara Tent that year, but light years away from being one of the Beatles. But their performance at Coachella that year was a game-changer. Big G brought a thirty-student high-school marching band on stage to perform Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar” and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us.” The set made national headlines.
Big Gigantic will return to Indio this year for its second Coachella performance.
Speaking from their homes in Boulder, Salken and Lalli consider that set in 2014 as one of the most crucial in their careers. “The global attention you get from it reaches further than a lot of other festivals,” Salken says. “It’s only resulted in more peoples’ attention being drawn to us and more shows and festivals.”
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But as many of its naysayers like to point out, Coachella was never meant to be a career-launcher, much less a celeb-fest. The festival started in one way or another after Pearl Jam performed at the Polo Club in 1993 to protest Ticketmaster and its minion venues. Coachella #2 was held six years later, with headliners like Rage Against the Machine and Tool — not exactly bands that would attract Victoria Secret models and Leonardo DiCaprio. The festival slowly started incorporating more mainstream acts, and word of “epic Coachella moments” started to spread. Practically legendary, Daft Punk’s 2006 set in the Sahara Tent helped pushed EDM into the American mainstream, where it remains firmly planted eleven years later. One might even argue that Lalli and Salken wouldn't have careers had it not been for that set.
Lalli, a sax player, and Salken, a drummer, started out as roommates. They began experimenting with electronic music around 2008 and spread their word — and their music — through the blogosphere. Four years later, they founded Rowdytown, an EDM show at Red Rocks that has sold out every year since.
Now with almost two Coachella performances, a just-announced U.S. tour, regular appearances in the EDM festival circuit and six albums under its belt, the duo is looking to add a gold, maybe a platinum, album to its résumé and a Grammy or two. “I think another goal is to keep working with new artists and rappers and singers…and just keep expanding internationally, as well as gain fans in the U.S.," Lalli says.
They are, of course, tight-lipped about their Coachella stage plans this year, but promise to try to top 2014. No doubt tickets-holders should expect big things.