It was a special kind of Sunday night in Boulder. Anybody could tell by the silly smiles lined up outside the Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado in anticipation of the impending madness, but I’d been waiting (less than patiently) for the event since it was announced months (see: centuries) ago: Manic Focus was taking over the Fox for one of the first dates of his winter tour. I was honored and thrilled to learn that I’d be taking pictures at the show. Manic Focus won my heart when he opened for Big Gigantic at Red Rocks in 2013, and the artist proceeded to blow my mind with uncanny consistency from that point on. Needless to say, the trend continued on Sunday night.
The Fox was already quite full and quickly filling when Vibe Street kicked off the night. The crowd arrived early: nobody wanted to miss a moment of the magic. Vibe Street did not disappoint. The artist warmed up the dance floor with a selection of tunes that got the crowd moving at an appropriately funky pace. When he threw down an unexpected hybrid of electro-funk and bluegrass – yes, bluegrass – I didn’t want to like it. But Vibe Street’s unlikely stylistic endeavor was just as impressive as the rest of his set. Along with the rest of the Fox Theater, I got down. His enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries of musical convention, style, and even personal taste is inspiring. Vibe Street is sticking around to play at the notorious 1up on Colfax in Denver next weekend (January 29th). You know I’ll be there (don’t forget to bring quarters!).
By the time Krooked Drivers took the stage, the venue had erupted into a proper party. The few head-nodders lining the walls tied up their dancing shoes and began to move their feet; no one could resist the duo’s unique brand of electro-soul. Their contagious energy on stage infected the dance floor. If you haven’t heard of Krooked Drivers yet, this is a great time to find out. The duo is making waves with some of the most well-respected names in electronic music. They return to Colorado in March for a mini tour of mountain paradise with Michel Menert – get all the details here.
…What to say about Manic Focus? Words can’t do justice to such a colorful set. If you’ve ever seen Manic Focus live, you already know. Even with my camera in hand I lost myself in the rhythm, emerging occasionally to remind myself to snap a few photos. Manic Focus was joined on stage with the exceptionally talented drummer from Emancipator Ensemble. DJ sets featuring live drummers are always a special treat, and his mastery on the drum set was absolutely mesmerizing. The organic quality of a live instrument added another dimension to Manic Focus’s set, which was amplified later when special guests Griz and Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic took to the stage for a rare display of dual saxophone action.
Perhaps Manic Focus’s most striking musical quality is his astonishing talent for remixing late 90’s – early 2000’s rock hits. These gems are (obviously) irresistible to any electronic music fan born in the 90’s; the predominantly college aged crowd went wild for his remix of “Mad World”.
As an inhabitant of Colorado’s booming music scene, I’ve experienced many exceptional performances. I’ve also witnessed more empty, soulless, formulaic sets than I care to reflect on. Nights like Sunday renew my passion for the scene. Each performer on stage that night is a genuine artist dedicated to sharing a piece of themselves with their fans through each and every song. Luckily for you, Manic Focus’s winter tour is only beginning. Find out when the tour is visiting your city right here to join in on the party. While you wait, check out the full stream of Manic Focus’s album Cerebral Eclipse on SoundCloud.