Last Saturday’s almost offensively energetic show was full of firsts for me; I had never watched a man play a saxophone with one hand while controlling an electronic beat mixer with the other.
I hadn’t seen so many frat guys in one place since a brief and misguided weekend spent at UVA many summers ago.
I had never observed so many colorful inflatable saxophones being enthusiastically thrust into the air before.
Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken put on the most high-energy, quality production, sensory-assault of a show I have ever seen at the 9:30 Club. From the floor-to-ceiling LED panels rapidly flashing images of sharks with lazer beams shooting out from between their teeth, kittens, and Pac Man to the fact that the normally chest-height stage was raised enough so that every single person in the club could see them from wherever they might be standing, Big Gigantic has clearly honed their live show over years of trial and error and realized what works.
Considering the fact that they’ve played huge shows like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, All Good – pretty much every festival featuring any form of electronic music that you can name – they’ve learned what their audience likes and how to get them excited. From what I could gather, their audience is from the Internet and really likes pot.
This ability to read the crowd could also be seen in the way they read one another’s cues: Lalli would make the smallest gesture with his free hand and Salken would immediately respond, changing up rhythms at the drop of a hat and following each other seamlessly through both the familiar patterns of their catchy hit songs and their more improvisational moments.
I’ve rarely seen a crowd respond so readily to musicians as the audience did to Big Gigantic – at least at first. By the time the show was winding down people had been dancing, drinking, and partying so enthusiastically that when Lalli attempted to get everyone to clap in time with the beat, he had to verbally call the crowd’s attention to himself to get them to notice what he wanted. Lalli, the man behind the live saxophone and the producer of their stage performances, regularly leapt up onto the console on which his laptop was precariously balanced and shouted things like “We love you DC!” into the mic, dancing as he revved up the audience. Salken never stopped moving for even one minute during the entire performance, alternately beating the hell out of his live drumset and standing up on his end of the platform to encourage the crowd. I was exhausted just watching them.
The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to share my empathy, however. Big Gigantic makes synth-heavy, sax-heavy, percussion-heavy, high-energy dance tracks, and every single person I saw that night was moving: b-boys in flat-brimmed hats; women in what amounted to a neon spandex bodysuit; many, many frat guys; and a few extremely dedicated people who had elected to attend the sold-out show on crutches. (There were seriously at least three of these people. That’s what I call loyalty.)
The combination of flashing lights, funky beats, pounding bass, the incorporation of live instruments, and a half rehearsed, half improvisation with a big fat jazz streak is Big Gigantic’s live show trademark for one good reason: It works.