Sax in the Tracks

Success in planning a road trip—one you’ll love talking about for the rest of your life—rests on a few essential elements. First, pick an exciting destination (no use driving to the middle of nowhere, right?); second, take good company (you don’t need backseat drivers or people who whine); third—and by far the most important element of any road trip—play the right music.

Which, consequently, is how I came across Big Gigantic. A few weeks ago I planned to drive up to Seattle to visit family, see the city, maybe climb a mountain or two, and I desperately needed some music to get me through the twelve-hour drive. Someone recommended I check out Big Gigantic—with the selling point that these guys combined electronic, dubstep, hip-hop, and jazz beats in their music. Before I hit the road, I downloaded their newest album, Nocturnal, to my iPod. Needless to say I was hooked within minutes, completely sucked into the fusion of sound…then I noticed the reading on my speedometer, which had inched a bit over the speed limit (and under no circumstances will I admit to how fast I was driving).

Big Gigantic. As their name indicates, these guys bring it; their go-big-or-go-home attitude at their shows blows the audience away, and if you haven’t heard them yet, you better get on it. Big Gigantic started out of Boulder, CO back in 2008 and consists of saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, who describe their music in one word: “ROWDY!” When I asked how they came up with their unique name, Jeremy said “[Dom] was literally walking down the street one day, thinking of band names and bam it popped into his head!” A few years later when Dominic brought over some of his tracks and asked Jeremy to play drums over them, they ended up calling it Big Gigantic.

For the past five years, these guys have risen rapidly in the world of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) with Westword calling their show Rowdytown the “#1 EDM show of 2012.” Lalli and Salken alternate smoothly between sax, keys, drums, and laptop to create an amazing fusion of beats, which takes an extraordinary amount of skill. When I asked them how they work so well as a team, they said it came down to the combination of knowing each other for over a decade, playing numerous gigs, and being roommates in the past. “We know each other so well at this point and how to compliment the other one that it seems second nature, especially on the stage. We’re both really LISTENING to what the other is playing, and vibe off one another while we’re doing that to create an experience the crowd can get into.”

Not only do they have a dynamic that works, but they seem to do well under pressure too. An example Big G gave me comes from two years ago at All Good Music Festival, when the left side of Lalli’s table collapsed during a set…in front of 15,000 people. “The computer just slid off and closed. The music kept playing for like five seconds, then all of a sudden nothing. There was an initial ‘ohhhhhhh’ from the crowd, but then we started the track over and kept crushing, and people were raging like nothing happened!” says Salken.

The crowds do indeed get a mind-blowing experience with Big G’s wicked lighting effects and stage presence, but also from their unique blend of genres and their different styles of EDM. As Jeremy puts it, “Everything is there for a reason. The key, the chords, etc. are all there to evoke emotions [and] take the listener on a journey.” This duo leaves no genre untouched since they listen to and love “any style of music from classical to hip-hop and everything in between.” One of the reasons they play so many different genres is to keep people guessing. As Lalli and Salken put it, “You never know what you’re gonna get, but we’re gonna bring the party!”

Another distinctive, yet surprising element I found was the incorporation of the sax in Big G’s tracks. (Yes, I do realize this rhymes.) Played by Lalli since he was a child, it was “only natural when [he] started making beats to find a way to involve it.” I was curious why a saxophone (not a typical part of EDM) worked so well in their music. Dominic explained it to me this way: “It’s one of those instruments that’s very close to a voice. You can put inflections on it almost as if you were singing.”

“Stronger” (which is also my favorite track on Nocturnal) stands as a perfect example of how the smooth sound of the sax weaves its way seamlessly with the other beats, creating a track that basically makes a person feel invincible.

Nocturnal, their newest album (out for about a year and a half now) “is another evolution of [their] sound.” Big Gigantic even offers a free download of the album on their website (http://biggigantic.net/) because their philosophy “is to get [their music] EVERYWHERE people get music.” So if you want to hear these guys before they grace us with their presence at the Senator on September 5th, you can go to their website, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, you name it, to check them out.

Round 1 of their “Sky High” tour ends September 28th, in none other than Morrison, CO—the location of Rowdytown I and now Rowdytown II. What’d they have to say when I asked if it would be as epic as the first? “IT’LL BE DOUBLE THE ROWDY!!!…We’re really psyched to be back at Red Rocks. It’s one of the best venues on the planet. It’s incredibly inspiring to play there and is honestly a dream come true.” And what should fans expect for Rowdytown II? “New music, bad-ass lights, and to dance their asses off!”

Not much more left to say except, who’s ready to get “ROWDY” on 9/5?