Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gramatik - Live in Times Square

The magic of Times Square at night.
The millions of lights.
The tourists with wide eyes.
The yellow cabs flying past.
This was the atmosphere waiting in line at the Best Buy Theater to see Gramatik, the best producer to come out of Slovenia since....well....ever.

After filling my lungs with city air, an exxxtra long escalator took me deep below the cityscape into the blue-lit depths of the Best Buy Theater.  After waiting in the coat check line for half a millennia (FIX THIS BEST BUY!), I finally made my way into the theater. Ornate glass chandeliers hung from the dark, open ceiling.  A general admission/standing area stretched 50 yards out from the stage, while the back end of the venue had movie theater style seating.

But you don't care about that.  You came here to read about the music. You wanna know about Gramatik.  How'd he do? How was the set?
Don't worry baby birdie. Daddy's gonna feed you... Imma feed ya some FUNK.

Opening artist Goldfish set the precedent.  The electronic duo hailing from South Africa took the electronic scene in a whole new direction, tossing in elements of jazz, funk, that 'big-band-swing' sound and even rock.  Dominic Peters set up his samples and looped them, only to come to the front of the stage and blare funky melodys on a baby alto sax.  Synth player David Poole added to the samples with jazzy solos and blues chords.  At the end of the set, Poole danced alongside an upright double bass and made the crowd scream as he played the bass line from "Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry and then "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

This left the crowd reeling in anticipation. Gramatik is up next....Finally! Gramatik is up next!

And then the moment came.

Accompanied by synth/ trumpet player Russ Liquid and "imaginary friend" Slow Magic, Gramatik laid down a dubstep-heavy set, somewhat to the disappointment of longtime fans hoping to hear funk and blues.  For those longtimers, Gramatik had something special lined up: a 20 minute rendition of Stevie Wonder's Superstition.  With Russ blaring Stevie's famous horn-line (with ease, might I add) Gramatik and Slow Magic turned the song from funk to a dance, then to a chill downtempo and then right back into a climactic funk feel.

This, however, was not the highlight of the show.  Gramatik introduced Mr.Tibble to the crowd, a thin man in a black vest and red button down, crowned with a black bowler hat. With no idea who this vocalist was, I stopped for a second of cynical judgment. But even my impossible standards were blown away.  Using a vocoder, Mr. Tibble 'auto-tuned' his voice to the solo he played on small synth, much like a voice-box for a guitar (popularized by back in the day by Peter Frampton).  His bluesy, electronic robot voice added a killer melody over the top of the lowtemp beats and jazzy chord changes.  Towards the end of the show, Mr. Tibble came back onstage to move his body in a way that made Chris Brown look amatuer.  Not only could this guy sing, not only could he bang out a bluesy solo, but damnnnn could he dance. Think Michael Jackson moonwalking into a hip-hop/ street performer/ b-boy danceoff.

Oh! And of course: Gramatik's rendition of Stairway to Heaven by Zeppelin was KILLER!

All in all a great set, although a little grimey and dubsteppy at points, the funk still cut through.  Check out the videos and thanks for reading.  See you at the next show!