Photo credit: Jackie Pratt
As we say goodbye to 2012, let us not forget some of the huge moments that made this year unforgettable: Barack Obama was re-elected President; the world survived December 21st; Skrillex became a household name by winning three Grammys, making Electronic Dance music more popular than ever; and Marijuana became legal in Washington and Colorado. There is no better way to celebrate a year this monumental than on New Year’s Eve, one of the most anticipated nights of the year, with Big Gigantic, GRiZ, and Manic Focus at The Aragon Ballroom presented by Silver Wrapper and Jam Productions.
If you have never been to The Aragon Ballroom, let me tell you, this is a must-see venue. The Ballroom was built in 1926 and was designed to replicate a Spanish palace courtyard, complete with crystal chandeliers, mosaic tiles, ceilings beautifully painted like a night sky, balconies, and magnificent arches. After finally getting through coat check and up the huge staircase, we had reached the ballroom. As you looked up, three large nets with colorful balloons adorned the “night sky”. Manic Focus, a Minnesota native, was already on stage throwing down deep bass lines with electro hip hop influences. The atmosphere was very chill as he played remixes of “Mad World” by Gary Jules and “Sky is the Limit” by Rebelution. (Want to know more about Manic Focus? Check out an interview we did with him here.)
It was now time for our first saxophone player of the night and electro funk extraordinaire to hit the stage. At only 21-years-old, Grant Kwiecinski, a.k.a. GRiZ, brings a fresh feel to the electronic scene that is like no other. As he graced the stage, he sported a suit jacket with saxophone in hand and a spotlight beaming down on top of him. The light show was minimal in his stage set up, which I believe helped you focus more on his soulful music. Some of my favorite originals were, “Better Than I’ve Ever Been, “Smash the Funk”, and “Blastaa”. What I love about seeing GRiZ play is the variety in his music: he plays anything from dubstep, to jazzy sax solos, and even a little trap. This was demonstrated by a few remixes like “Du Du Doo” by Two Fresh, “Flex” by Heroes x Villains (an unreleased GRiZ remix), and “Tequila” by The Champs. I believe GRiZ is one of the top break-out artists of the year and this kept my opinion of him held high. (Check out our write up of GRiZ’s debut LP.)
Photo credit: Larry Redlin
At 11:30, Big Gigantic took the stage. This lively duo from Boulder, Colorado consists of saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken. What makes them so special is that they took the idea of producing traditional electronic music, but instead interpret it with live instruments. As the lights dimmed and the new stage setup began to glow, Dominic yelled, “Chicago! Happy New Year’s Eve, Whooo! We are Big Gigantic. We love you Chicago! Let’s do this thing!” Smiles lit up on everyone’s face as a dance party broke loose. They started it off with an intro that had a driving beat and heavy synths. Dominic slowly chimed in with his sax, giving you only a little glimpse of what was to come. Their new stage set up consisted of Jeremy and Dominic side by side on a risen platform and around 15 large LED panels. They were carefully placed in front and behind the risers creating beautiful designs and shapes that were choreographed with the music.
As the intro ended, high pitch synths filled the air and “Wide Awake” began to play. In this first half hour, Big G played with so much energy filling the ballroom with their groovy beats and sexy sax solos. As midnight approached, Dominic told us to get are crew together. I made sure everyone important was around me as we began to countdown, “10…9…8..” as it hit midnight confetti filled the air and balloons fell from above. “Happy New Year!” the crowd yelled, as horns rang and the lights went wild. Everyone around me was hugging, cheering, and exchanging that special New Year’s kiss. It was truly one of those moments that gives you chills. It was now time to start 2013 with a Big Gigantic original, “Rise and Shine”. Dominic exclaimed, “Chi-town, it’s time to rise and shine y’all, it’s a brand new fucking year Let’s do it. Let’s do it big y’all!” There wasn’t a single person in the venue that wasn’t getting down at this point. They played their classic remixes of “I Need A Dollar” by Aloe Blacc, “Notorious Thugs” by Notorious B.I.G., “Get ‘Em High” by Kanye West, and the remix they produced for their 2012 New Year’s Eve show called “Chi- City Kanye Remix”. Some of my favorite new remixes played were, “Pressure Cooker” by Pegboard Nerds, “Icarus” by Madeon, and “Bonfire” by Knife Party. What I love about Big Gigantic is that they can take these huge bangers and make them their own with impressive saxophone riffs and upbeat drums. Along with these notable remixes, they played original songs such as, “Polarize”, “The Uprising”, “Lucid Dreams”, and my current personal favorite “Power” featuring GRiZ. It was amazing to see all of them on stage playing their hearts out and dancing just as hard as we all were.
I couldn’t imagine Big Gigantic ever topping the New Year’s Eve show they played last year, but they did. Big ups to Manic Focus and GRiZ for supporting Big Gigantic by bringing their incredible talents to a great venue. A very big thanks to Big Gigantic for throwing down harder than ever and the fact that this crowd was filled with so much love made New Year’s eve 2013 a night that will be remembered.