Concert Review: OWSLA Label Showcase at Slake

Sunday night, as you all know, was the Oscars (and a memorable one at that!). I, however, am not really a movie person and I had seen a record breaking ZERO Oscar-nominated movies this time around. So I needed something else to do.

My friend Cody told me about an OWSLA showcase going down at Slake, which many of you may recall is Skrillex’s record label. Every time there’s an OWSLA party it’s rumored that Skrillex will show up, and he often does. I was a little skeptical seeing as he just made an announcement that he’s taking time off from electronica-land this year, but I knew this would still be a perfect, non-Oscar-watching way to spend my Sunday evening. Particularly when I saw that Israeli electro-funk band The G-Nome Project would be playing in a different room of the same venue that evening, and even though you needed separate tickets for the two shows, I was able to snag a G-Nome ticket on Jukely for free(ish).

I arrived at American Beauty (the downstairs venue from Slake), which hosts a bar you can hang out in before entering the ticketed part of the venue. I estimated that about 95% of the people were there waiting to go to the OWSLA party and 5% were waiting for the G-Nome Project. About 1% of the people there were reading a book like they were in a coffee shop (that was me – I am reading this book, and so far it is excellent).

I stopped by the G-Nome Project first, and it was awesome. I had heard of the band a number of times but never listened to their music, and I loved it. The guys were clearly having a blast on stage, the audience was into it, and they had a live painter, which is always fun. After awhile I decided to go upstairs and get my dubstep on.

The lineup of the OWSLA showcase was a secret, but going down the list of artists on the label’s website, here’s who I would have loved to see (without regard for how realistic or unrealistic it was):

Basecamp
Kill the Noise
Marshmello
Mija
Milo & Otis
Skrillex
Valentino Khan
What So Not

I was happy to see set times posted (not so secret anymore, are you, lineup?) and less than happy to see that I had never heard of anyone on it. I pulled up the OWSLA artist list on my phone and confirmed that out of the names present on the set list, only one – DJ Sliink – was even listed there. Huh?

I went inside and even though it was after 10 and the show was supposed to start at 9, no one was DJing. But they were bumping a solid 90s hip hop playlist and I was happy. A number of people walked across the stage and seemed to be instagramming the audience, but none appeared to be intent on playing any music. I kept dancing. I decided to count the number of people who were wearing the same OWSLA jacket, and thought it strange until I remembered there had been an OWSLA pop-up shop downstairs at American Beauty that afternoon. I lost count of the jackets after 8 or 9.

owsla

Suddenly, without fanfare, the music abruptly changed from hip hop to some heavy house music, and the crowd cheered. I looked on stage and there was still no one who appeared to be playing any music.

After awhile someone did step up behind the computer. I asked around to see if anyone knew who it was. No one did, but guessed based on the set times that it might have been Chris Lake. He is not an OWSLA artist and I’m not sure why he was there, but I was into it anyway. For such a small venue there was a solid production value to this show because as we all know, every fan of electronic music loooooves lights.

Dancing by yourself to house music can feel a little weird, and so I bounced back downstairs to spend some more time at the G-Nome Project, which was still going strong and still fun and funky.  Then I went back upstairs, took another peek at the set times, and confirmed that Chris Lake would be performing for far longer than I was prepared to stay at this event, it being a Sunday and all that jazz. So after some more time at Chris Lake, I called it quits.

I was somewhat hesitant to leave, still possibly convinced that Skrillex or Marshmello would show up late in the evening and blow everyone’s minds, but I was willing to take the risk on missing out (spoiler alert: no surprise sets happened!). So I went home, YouTubed the end-of-Oscars awkwardness, and went to bed.

I’m a little bummed that at an OWSLA showcase event I only managed to see one artist (and a non-OWSLA artist at that), but I still got to hit up not one, but TWO good shows, both with A+ dancing, and I didn’t have to sit through 4 hours of watching an award show for movies I’ve never seen. So it was a win, and a great way to start the week.

Artist Spotlight: GRAMATIK. Finally.

The fact that I’ve had this blog for nearly a year and have yet to dedicate a post to Gramatik is a disservice to society. Because Gramatik – real name Denis Jasarevic – is the man.

Gramatik is yet another artist whose music is sometimes hard to define – it’s a little hip hop, a little soul, a little funk, a little miscellaneous, and a lot awesome. The diversity of his tracks makes him hard to put in a handy little bucket but always keeps you on your toes, and I love the ever-evolving nature of his sound. Like so many other of my favorite electronic music producers, he expertly weaves together samples to create new, fresh sounds out of old tracks.

My all-time favorite Gramatik track is probably Illusion of Choice. I mean, that HARP.

But I’m also a huge fan of Just Jammin:

So Much For Love is also fantastic:

And can’t forget about Balkan Express, which makes me want to dance a cool hip hop ballet:

This is just a small sample of his range.

Aside from his music, Gramatik is a legitimately cool person (as far as I can tell without ever having actually met him). A strong believer in the freedom of information, he makes all his music available at no cost and is the #1 most legally downloaded artist on BitTorrent. In addition to posting about upcoming shows or festivals, he fills his social media with interesting science articles, cool photos, and hero worship of Nikola Tesla. He spends considerable time promoting the other artists on Lowtemp, the music label he started in 2013, and often invites them to share the stage with him on tour. In fact, I typically find that adding, for example, Gibbz on guitar and vocals or Russ Liquid on the trumpet, adds a richness and a depth to Gramatik’s music. They enhance songs that are already amazing to begin with and they create remixes that I never thought I needed but that I love so, so much. I always thought Illusion of Choice was a perfect song until I heard it with live trumpet. So wonderful.

On a personal level, I met 2 of my closest friends at a Gramatik show a year and a half ago, and while there are a number of artists that all 3 of us love, Gramatik holds a special place in our friendship (aw!) because he unintentionally brought us together. We, somewhat cornily and somewhat jokingly, refer to ourselves as the “Gramatik Girls,” and even though our concert and festival outings span many other artists and genres, we’re always a liiiiiittle extra excited when we have the opportunity to see Gramatik together as a group. ❤

I’ve only been a fan of Gramatik’s for a little over 2 years, a relatively short time considering he had a bunch of albums out by the time I caught on. But even in that short time I’ve been able to see him really grow as an artist and in popularity. The first time I saw him live was at Electric Zoo 2 years ago, where he played a set early in the afternoon with a really low production value (it was still amazing). This past weekend at Electric Forest he had the second to last slot of the entire festival, in front of a massive crowd with an unbelievable lighting rig on a sound system so powerful it felt like the bass was filling your soul. This was my personal favorite set of the entire festival and it makes me overwhelmingly happy to see him reach this level of success, because he’s insanely creative and talented and he deserves it. I think by 2017 he’ll definitely start getting the headlining spot at at least a few of the major EDM festivals, and I can’t wait to keep rocking out to Gramatik for years to come.

On Repeat: GRiZ’s “Too Young for Tragedy (part 2)”

Alternatively titled, “I Got A Fever…And the Only Prescription…Is More Xylophone.”

I urge you, dear readers, to step away from this post until you have at least 19 minutes to spare. There are 2 songs in this post that total 16ish minutes, plus a little cushion room to actually read my, er, “analysis.” Don’t read this post without listening to the songs. GRiZ deserves your full attention.

“Too Young for Tragedy part 2” (henceforth TYT2) has been one of my favorite GRiZ songs for awhile, but I only really, truly, got into it this past weekend. I always thought it was kind of a fun, upbeat song with a slowish beginning, but after listening to it and actually paying attention – as opposed to listening on the go, which is what I normally do with music – I’ve discovered something.

This song is beautiful. It is full of emotion with highs and lows and takes you a full, crazy, satisfying journey.

To fully understand TYT2, you need to, of course, listen to TYT1. I don’t love part 1 on it’s own nearly as much as I love part 2, but together it’s really the complete experience. TYT1 is basically an extended prologue to TYT2, building tension and intrigue in a quiet, haunting way. It has these interludes of glitchy dubstep beats, and I almost sort of wish they weren’t there – I love the quiet parts way more. The single piano note at the end of part 1 is the perfect way to transition into part 2.

Now, onto the good stuff. I’ve listened to part 2 so many times in the last few days that I’ve really been able to break down the emotional transitions and what I love so much about it, but feel free to, you know, just listen to the song and not read my babble.

0:00 – I am obsessed with this xylophone. Is it even a xylophone? It certainly doesn’t sound like the instrument I used to bang around on when I was 8. I honestly wish TYT1 had more xylophone because for some reason I think this is the most beautiful part of this whole song. It’s so simple yet so insanely powerful. I imagine someone going through a struggle.

0:34 – The song starts to build energy, yet that xylophone is still there underneath everything. TYT2 is still in crescendo mode, continuing from everything that was built up in TYT1. It feels like something big is about to happen, even though I have no idea what it is. This part of the song makes me feel excited yet anxious.

2:04 – PARTY TIME! The struggle, whatever it was, is over. It feels victorious.

2:57 – The song dips again. Not back to the full quietness of it’s beginning, but it gets a little less chaotic and you can tell it’s going to build up to another funky happy dance party (spoiler alert!).

3:51 – It’s getting little angsty and I just love that this song represents such a full range of emotions.

5:20 – Here’s another amazing build that EDM fans love so much.

5:37 – Gettin’ funky!

7:29 – The song gets quiet, and – like part 2 – ends on a single note on the piano. It feels like the end of a Gillian Flynn novel – complete yet totally unsettling in the best way possible.

Artist Spotlight: The Floozies

The Floozies are an electro-funk duo from Kansas, the widely known epicenter of all things hip and cool. Of all the e-funk out there, they are by far the funkiest. Their music is smooth but uncontrollably dancey, and if the notion of “cool” could ever be represented in a group’s sound, theirs would be it.

I discovered The Floozies when I read an article called, “The Top 5 Hudson Project [music festival] Artists You’ve Never Heard Of.” I had already heard of one, so, joke’s on you, article! (P.S. Go download some Odesza, they’re amazing).

I checked out all the artists listed in the article, and as soon as I heard The Floozies’ song, “Stuntin,” I posted the YouTube video on Facebook, tagged my Hudson buddies, and said, “LISTEN TO THIS.” We did. And we saw them on Sunday morning of the festival, and it was the last act we got to see before horrendous thunderstorms shut down the remainder of the festival and created deep mud puddles that caused a thousand cars to get stuck and have to wait over 12 hours for a tow.

So, despite the fact that I have really strong negative memories very closely associated with The Floozies, somehow it doesn’t matter; they are that good. If I were ever asked to repeat Hudson Project Sunday, I wouldn’t, because that mud situation sucked. But it would kill me a little on the inside to have to say no to a Floozies performance.

Remember that 1996 movie “Space Jam,” and the eponymous song that went with it? Of course you do, it was awesome and oh-so-90s. Well, remember how every time you listened to it you would think to yourself, “Damn, I wish someone would make a seriously dope funk remix of this song?” My friends, your prayers have been answered.

You’re welcome.

I was fortunate enough to see The Floozies again – sans mud – a few nights ago. They were just as fantastic as they had been at Hudson, but the smaller venue allowed me to get pretty close to the stage and to realize my new favorite thing about this band: Matt, the producer and guitarist of the duo, is the happiest man alive.

Tis true. I have never seen someone so smiley in my life. Whether he was playing guitar, talking to the crowd, or dealing with some unfortunate technical difficulties, he had a massive grin on his face. It was completely adorable and made you want to pinch his cheeks like he was a 5 year-old and I think I leaned over to mention his smiliness to my friends no less than 8 times.

floozies

Extreme happiness not nearly apparent enough in this photo.

In case I haven’t fully sold you on the Floozies, they’re one of the amazing artists out there who let you download their music for free from their website (Although, support the artists! Or whatever). So you have no excuse for not listening to them immediately. Now, go.