Buried in the Rocky Mountains is a city that emerges two days a year. Its official languages are sax and drums, and the chief export is a party. I’m of course talking about Big Gigantic’s annual Red Rocks Amphitheatre event, Rowdytown.
Spanning 11 years, this tradition of Colorado’s own electronic funk band has been a citywide favorite and has grown into a weeklong family reunion. With charity events and meet and greets throughout the city throughout the week preceding the show, the bond between the band and its fans comes together on more than just a musical level.
In the events dubbed the “Road to Rowdytown,” community took center stage with a trifecta of outreach and interactive events. A day dedicated to volunteering kicked off the weekend downtown. As Colorado is the their home state, the growth of both the city and community means a lot to the duo. They always do their share to host events throughout the year to give back. The weekend progressed with a putt putt pop-up DJ set in the RiNo Art District, and a group rise-and-shine yoga session the Friday of the show prepared everyone for the two full days of dancing and climbing the Red Rocks stairs.
The Lil’ Gs (Big Gigantic’s fans dedicated to providing a safe, inclusive, and fun environment for others) were the perfect group to bridge the gap between the band and its fans during events. Coming from all over the country with treats, extra water bottles, clip-on toys, and tons of rubber ducks, the Lil’ Gs delivered in their role of providing an incredible atmosphere all week to patrons and participants across the city. Seriously, I do not know how or where they got so many ducks to hand out this weekend.
This Lineup was Deep
Riding the line between jam band and electronic act, Big Gigantic (comprised of Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salkin) deliver incredibly smooth and soulful saxophone licks, thunderous drum fills, funky house bass lines, and bone-crushing dubstep. Their overall range of genres shines in the curation of their lineups as well. Giving a home to some of the most prominent names in dance music as support artists, Rowdytown boasts an incredible track record of lineups. Names such as Illenium, Marshmello, RL Grime, Adventure Club, Macklemore, Dillon Francis, and GRiZ have been part of the Rowdytown population in years past. This year’s lineup did its fair share of heavy lifting to carry the rich tradition of electric openers.
Jason Leech delivered one of the craziest opening sets Red Rocks has seen this summer. Diving into his three-tiered piano set up, he put on a funk and dubstep live set as if it was his show for the taking. The pianist’s hands lay fat saw waves over the crowd, leaving them in awe and introducing a new way to execute the genre. His balance of melodies, dubstep and trap set the weekend vibes to Rowdy early in the day.
The weekend thrived on the individuality and self-expression of each artist and everyone in the crowd. There was an overwhelming inclusivity from every person I met over the weekend — it was a breath of fresh air compared to many other events across the city. There was no other artist this weekend that proved that more than Wreckno. Accompanied by a live dance crew, Wreckno provided the weekend’s celebration of self-expression and love. The set was absolutely breathtaking, as it included moments such as Dev appearing to sing live vocals to her tracks “Like A G6” and “In The Dark” as well as a premiere of a new collab with Mersiv. The music isn’t what stole the show for me, though.
In the moments closing out the set, Wreckno (real name Brandon Wisinski) delivered a heartfelt moment to the crowd and his mother, who was in attendance with us all. He reminded us all of the importance of loving and being true to yourself, and allowing others to do so safely around you, as his mother has done for him. It was a touching moment to get to share and take in with the beautiful individuals in attendance. It truly allowed dance music to shine and be the all-encompassing place of self-acceptance we all seek.
Delivering direct support on day two was the extremely creative set brought to us by MEMBA. The Brooklyn DJs delivered a surreal set of trap and downtempo fueled by the flavors of an Indian twist. After meeting on an archeological dig in India, the two fused the sounds of local culture with that of feverous trap music, creating a spicy mix unique to them. Ishaan (one half of MEMBA) announced that he was celebrating his birthday on stage that night as he stood admiring the crowd ahead. The delivery of their set was absolutely incredible, adding an additional sound to the already eclectic lineup.
Wavedash and Bijou delivered sets that I felt to be overlooked across the week before the show. There was hype around so many other artists in the murmurs of the crowd, but they offered up two of the most encapsulating and unique performances of the weekend. Bijou delivered some of the hottest tech house and dark techno to the crowd. As he stated that half of his set was unreleased music, I’m very excited about the direction of his project.
Wavedash came out and decided they were going to play absolutely whatever they wanted. And to no one’s surprise, the crowd ate it up. Stitching together hardstyle, breakbeats, and heavy trap, Wavedash did a live speed run of EDM genres behind the decks. The surprise in their set, however, was an announcement that also went overlooked by many in attendance: a new collaboration with Ekowraith.
Ekowraith is a long-lost side project of Porter Robinson. It’s an alias he hasn’t used since his “Spitfire” days. After hearing the name, it took my brain some time to process whether that’s what these guys truly said. They definitely said it, and the track is insane. A hybrid of the futuristic trap beats a la Wavedash and the happy hardcore days melted into an electronic dance anthem right before me. I will not rest until this song is released to the world.
Big Gigantic’s name carries a lot of weight in the Colorado dance music scene. The local duo have made known that their roots are planted firmly in Rocky Mountain soil. Being truly embraced by Denver early on created a longstanding love between them and the city. Over the years, Big Gigantic has helped cultivate the sounds that now flourish in Denver’s electronic scene.
More than a decade ago, soulful electonic funk became a craze thanks to the likes of Pretty Lights, Gramatik and GriZ. Big Gigantic in particular have experimented with new iterations of live sets, seeing them join forces with a multitude of collaborators such as The Motet and NGHTMRE.
Split sets over the two nights of Rowdytown XI were given the themes of “Area 51” and “Jungle Boogie,” encouraging the crowd to come dressed as aliens and spacemen, or in their best animal onesies. Friday came with some melodic hits and downtempo bass music to shake the leaves of the Red Rocks jungle. Saturday delivered some of the most out-of-this-world noises as the set was filled with dubstep tunes fit for space travel.
With the addition of their live horn section, the star of the show joined in as a second percussionist with the band. Dominic’s son Nico ran up onto the stage in his spacesuit and lion outfit each night to join his dad on stage. The roaring crowd’s collective “awws” helped cheer him on as he kept the beat for the band. It goes to show that you never know what to expect in a Big Gigantic live set.