Photos by: Derek Rickert (Spectral Productions)
Story by: Ellie Salrin
Halloween provides a shining assortment of live music from which to choose, and this year was no exception. Amidst the many tempting options, I followed my heart (and future funk addiction) up north to Wisconsin for a groovy, bass-infused evening with Grizmatik, Manic Focus, Exmag, and Late Night Radio.
GRiZ and Gramatik’s labels (Liberated Music and Lowtemp, respectively), came together for a two-night showcase entitled “The Legend of the Devil’s Tower and the Seven Sisters,” playing Devil’s Night in St. Paul, MN and Halloween Night at The Rave in Milwaukee. As these artists have continued to blow up with each new album and live performance, they hit the sold out show in Wisco with brute force that was truly the stuff of legends.
Denver-based Late Night Radio (aka Alex Medellin) began the evening with his smooth, hip-hop infused electro soul. The producer has released a Vinyl Restoration series that is a blend of old school albums and beats that create a deep, fervent atmosphere. He set the mood properly for a night of getting the funk down.
Exmag did their thing next, and that thing was pure sexy, bluesy funk of Extraordinary Magnitude. The super group comprised of Eric Mendelson (who often plays guitar with Gramatik), Tyler Dondero (aka SuperNicer), Mike Iannatto, and Bryn Bellomy (of ILLUMNTR), is on a different level. I had shown their music to some of my friends, but something about hearing, seeing, and feeling it live just stopped everyone in their tracks. So smooth and so sexy. Sexmag. The stage dynamic and energetic, yet relaxed vibe they gave off was perfection. A couple songs I recall them playing were “Live from the Future” off their debut album Proportions, and “Fall in Love too Fast,” their remix of a GRiZ song.
Manic Focus (aka John McCarten) slayed the crowd next. Having emerged, as he has said, “with little knowledge and zero connections to this beautifully awesome scene,” he has developed a badass, crispy bass edge with plenty of hip-hop and sultry vocals. He has begun to gain a lot of recognition in the industry, which is well deserved. The new album, Cerebral Eclipse, is straight bangers from beginning to end, including collabs with Michal Menert, ProbCause, Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic, and GRiZ. On Halloween he got things rowdy as hell, blasting some tracks from the new album, a filthy “No Diggity,” as well as his remix of Disclosure’s “Latch.” We were right in the thick of it, and it felt oh so good.
And then, all hell broke loose. GRiZ (aka Grant Kwiecinski) and Gramatik (aka Denis Jasarevic) blew the roof off The Rave from the very beginning. Crushing new school crispiness meets ridiculously unprotected sax, getting everyone all funked up out of their brains. The future funk all stars brought an intense energy to the venue for two straight hours, both levels ecstatically pulsating. It was difficult to tell who was having a better time; those in the crowd or the performers on stage.
The set list was a flawless mix of GRiZ and Gramatik's solo tracks, as well as Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” David Bowie’s “Fame,” and Lookas’s remix of War’s “Low Rider.” They performed Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” changing the breakdown to “Get a little bit funky now.” And we did. The duo also played their collabs “Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom” and “My People.” As the pair’s relationship continues to bud, fans can only hope for more material in the future.
As I was swept out of the venue in a sea of thousands, I was overly impressed by not only the songs played and the vibes of the entire event, but also the pristine lighting and sound production and professional, yet fun nature of the artists, their managers, and all involved. The Liberated and Lowtemp crews are effortlessly cool music gangsters growing to boss level status.
A group of Liberators from Wisconsin even organized a food drive and collected non-perishable food items before the event to be donated to Hunger Task Force. The initiative raised over 750 pounds of food, as well as showed some of the younger kids in attendance that partying with a purpose is how we do. I was refreshed from my Halloween experience, and I hope all of you got to soak up some of your favorite music too.
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