Boulder’s Big Gigantic headlined Red Rocks Amphitheatre Saturday night in what was affectionately dubbed “Rowdytown.” The show pulled in a slew of top tier openers and sold out almost a week in advance — an impressive feat that spoke to the growing force of Colorado’s EDM scene.
Raw Russ, co-founder of the budding Boulder label Elm and Oak, opened the show with a brief electro set before future-funk dubstep producer Griz took to the stage at sunset. While many in attendance were vocally upset that Griz played so early in the evening, all was reconciled when he appeared with the headliners later in the night for an unreleased new collaboration, “Power.”
L.A. house producer Dillon Francis was next, thriving off the growing energy as the venue filled in. The DJ played a very diverse set, maneuvering through jungle, heavy house and hip-hop tracks like his well-known collaboration with A-Trak, “Money Making.”
Perhaps the oddest choice for the bill, Seattle’s alternative rapper/DJ duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was the last opening act. Fresh off a sold-out European tour, the rapper was surely animated, but seemed to fall short of capturing the Red Rocks crowd in its entirety. His sincere storytelling on topics like same sex marriage and consumerism was commendable, but his gimmicks (“If you have a cell phone or a lighter, put it up”) and irritability (“That has never been a part of hip-hop, getting hit in the face with a glowstick”) had most people amped for Big Gigantic to steal the show.
When Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken finally took to the stage over Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock” in their trademark all white attire, the amphitheater transformed into a frenzy of color and sound arguably unmatched for a previous Red Rocks performance. While the highly-marketed “first ever 3D mapping on the rocks” was somewhat of a let down (the designs were fairly faint), adding LED panels to the sides and above their two-pod setup created an expansive lighting rig that filled almost the entire stage.
Driven by his classical training and ear for catchy melodies, Lalli’s live saxophone was turned up in the mix and front and center the whole show. On funky originals like “Fantastic” and “Sky High,” he cleverly complemented his intense production and syncopated womps with catchy runs that sounded like they could have been the work of Karl Denson.
The duo played a marathon set that included both bangers like “Hopscotch” and Waka Flocka’s “Hard in the Paint” and expected fan favorite remixes like “Notorious Thugs” and Kanye West’s “Get ‘Em High.” Salken’s crisp, crash-heavy drumming never overpowered, but did impress during the technical drum ‘n’ bass of “Lucid Dreams” and a jazzy, improvised intro to Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar.”
By the time Big Gigantic finished a lengthy encore, it was just shy of 1 a.m. — a fitting end to the most electronic season Red Rocks has ever had.
Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.