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Thursday, January 27,2011

Fearsome gravitational pull

Buoyed by Boulder scene, Big Gigantic keeps growing

By P.J. Nutting
There is only one way to describe Big Gigantic’s success, and it doesn’t require a half-assed play on words. The duo’s highly anticipated show at the Fox Theatre, which sold out months ago nearly within a day, marks exactly two years since producer/saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken first appeared together alongside fellow Boulderites Rootz vs. Murphy at the B-Side Lounge.


Winning a hefty ally in jamtronica in the form of STS9’s David Murphy, and in a town that continues to ravenously support the genre, it wasn’t long before Big Gigantic took their booming jazz-hop sound from basement clubs to the fields of summer festivals. Their live setup (an unbelievably heavy combo of drums, saxophone and computer production) resonated with STS9’s label, the highly influential 1320 Records, and the rest fell into place.

“I think it’s a whole scene thing — it took everyone doing everything that they were doing at the time they were doing it,” Lalli laughs over the phone with the Boulder Weekly, “all the way up to this moment right now, with us talking, for everything to happen the way it did. I don’t think it was us or them: It was the whole deal, the whole package, everything together.”

And whether it’s Lalli’s expert-yet-accessible saxophone style or his pursuit of explosive bass production that defined the band’s unique sound, it gave Big G the opportunity last summer to tag along as Sound Tribe nearly sold out a two-day run at Red Rocks, and turned a seemingly doomed gig at Camp Bisco (run by oddball jamtronica champs The Disco Biscuits) into a surprise blowout that even had the Wu-Tang Massacre urging for an encore.

“The Wu-Tang Massacre was billed after us and showed up late,” Lalli says, “so they were yelling at us on the side like, ‘Keep going!’ And we turned around to get off and they were [making shooing motions with their hands] and we’re like ‘OK, we’ll play another one!’ We played for like, an hour and a half, and in front of a huge crowd.”

“We lucked out,” Salken adds.

“Somebody was on our side, because it went from shit-show rain to clearing up, and people just came out of nowhere. We thought we were getting screwed. At a festival, I’m not doing shit at 3 p.m., I’m not awake.” Salken laughs, pointing out that the video of the band performing “Limelight,” now at the top of their MySpace page, chronicles this unexpectedly rowdy tour stop.

Now in full throttle for 2011, and fresh off of a performance on the Jam Cruise, (“basically the best festival you’ve ever been to, but it’s even better because it’s on a boat,” Lalli says), Big Gigantic is getting a breath of air before their long-overdue headlining premier in Boulder, a winter tour across the nation that joins Umphrey’s McGee, and a still-unnamed EP in the works.

Fans with tickets can expect a live premier of Big G’s latest work, a remix of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” Created in collaboration with Boulderite and member of opener Fresh2Death, Ben Samples, it’s just stereotype reinforcement that Boulder is still a good place for ripe bass.

“A lot of places we go, everyone’s saying, ‘Oh Boulder! Colorado!’ Everyone’s trying to get that going wherever we’re at, trying to get that scene happening like we do here,” Lalli says.

Fellow laptopper and Boulderite Alex Botwin was a huge influence on how Big Gigantic came to utilize electronic sounds, and he critically adopted Lalli as a student to show him where to find the “sick” knob on his mixer.

“The reason why me and Alex bonded so well — one, it’s funny that we have the same birthday — and two, when I was living in New York, y’know, it’s just a whole different vibe out there. Everyone’s grinding hard.

When I was at music school, everyone was up until 5 in the morning in the practice room, trying to work on stuff, to get better, to get gigs, to write music. And really, Alex was the first guy I met around here that had that kind of drive. I was like, ‘Cool, this guy, this is what I’m talking about. This is how we do it.’” With any of the band’s three studio releases, all offered for free on their website, two constants are the speakerpunishing pulses and the musicianship you would expect from a genre prefixed with “jam.” In it, you can hear some of the most intriguing and annoyingly catchy melodies you can find in electronic music.

“With the music I’ve been writing, it’s definitely been using that melodic content and using more chops-oriented stuff as well,” Lalli says. “We will still add some of those bass-heavy elements to the new stuff, but in a tasteful way that is conjunction with the sound.”

Basic things like song structure, chord changes(!), and melodic weight, with even obscure lines like the riff from “Thinking Out Loud” becoming the fans’ instrumental karaoke, it seems unnatural for Big Gigantic to also embrace the “filth” idealized by dubstep and most other types of bass music. Even though filth is intrinsically not catchy or pleasant, and with a saxophone not offering much help, Lalli said he and Salken aren’t avoiding anything.

“When I first think about filthy, I think of dirty, raw, grimy kinds of beats, more kind of makes you have a face that’s like ‘ugh,’ but it’s in a good way,” Lalli laughs. “But everyone uses it differently and expands on it, so a filthy set can just be, ‘They killed it.’ Boulder likes those big drops; that’s for sure. And with our stuff, that’s one part of the whole thing for us, but definitely a part that we love a lot.”

“That’s one part of why people like some of that music,” Lalli continues, “it’s the juxtaposition of the melody with the grimy and dirty. You’ll notice it in a lot of tracks: There’s beautiful vocals and this woman singing, and then it builds up and drops into the most absurd, rowdy shit.”

“Especially when I’m making a build-up into the drop, I’m like, ‘How is this gonna hit? Red Rocks … uhhhkay, gotta make sure it’s big.’

On the Bill:

Big Gigantic plays the Fox Theatre on Friday, Jan. 28. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Fresh2Death and Raw Russ open. Tickets are sold out. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.


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