Concert Reviews

Gramatik at the Fillmore Auditorium, 11/17/12


Perched atop a primitively painted motherboard graphic, flanked by several columns, Gramatik and guitarist F.A.Q. towered over the Fillmore in the midst of "The Coil," as Gramatik's colossal new setup has been appropriately dubbed. Framed by three tesla-coil looking structures that were triggered to blast during certain drops and song changes, the structure loomed conspicuously above the crowd and resembled the Taj Mahal until the lights were activated and the show began. The new staging rig is a perfect example of production complementing the music.

See also: - Interview: Gramatik on joining Pretty Lights Music and more - Review: Gramatik at Altitude Music Festival, 4/28/12

Over the course of his set at the Fillmore, Gramatik jumped around all over his catalog, while F.A.Q. added his tasteful fret work throughout. For some producers, adding a live-drummer is an element that can sometimes hold attention when the music is failing, but for Gramatik, the six-string covers those bases. Standing directly next to Gramatik behind the motherboard, F.A.Q. took the reigns on several tracks and his improvised riffing often trumped the beats and took the dance party to a rock concert, if only for a few moments.

Not that Gramatik's beats needed any help getting a favorable reception. From the various Street Bangerz volumes to Beatz and Pieces, Gramatik's music, with its swanky horns and lounge-style keys, is made for dancing. While nu-disco is currently climbing the ranks of popularity, Gramatik is spearheading the nu-swing movement, leaving rivals in the dust with his hip-hop beats, melting into synthesized jazz tracks, all rounded out with a live guitarist and visual spectacle that you can reasonably deduce will be part of the next phase of the EDM revolution.

Before Gramatik's set, legendary MC Talib Kweli took the stage after Mux Mool. With only a DJ on stage with him, Kweli brought the weight and ferociousness of a live band, pushing his energy and charisma out into the crowd, enthralling the throng with just his vocals and some classic beats. There's a reason that EDM and hip-hop mix so perfectly, and that's because a majority of this growing EDM crowd came out of the hip-hop era. It was only a matter of time before promoters caught on and decided to appeal directly to the hip-hop crowd, fully knowing that artists like Gramatik are the offspring of those rappers and producers.

Kweli's influence on the hip-hop world has been felt since the '90s, both on his own and performing with Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) under the moniker Black Star. On that note, Kweli treated us to "Definition." Even without his partner, the words were just as powerful. He also delivered "Get By" with flawless lyricism, and the chorus inspired a sing-a-long from a healthy chunk of the crowd.


Personal Bias: I've seen Gramatik at every one one of his past Denver appearances -- my favorite set being at CU's Altitude Music Festival -- and it's been great watching the producer rise to the top.

Random Detail: With congratulations to out state and its voters, Gramatik came out from behind The Coil and smoked a huge joint, backlit by a big Amendment 64 graphic on the LED.

By the Way: The passing of Amendment 64 hasn't changed anything other than outsiders' commentary. Colorado smokes good. Always has, always will.

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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester