Walking into the Skyway for a Gramatik show on the day before the Super Bowl, you just assume things are going to get out of control. As I walk in, it’s about 10pm. There was a large group of people here, plenty of space though still left. Which, I was honestly surprised at, but considering that there are an incredible amount of parties going on tonight, it makes sense. On tonight’s plate, EDM artists that incorporate instruments into their sets. Always a treat to see how people make the game theirs.
Balkan Bump comes out, I’ve heard a couple of his tracks. The earliest one, being a collaboration with Gramatik actually. A remix of Aymo featuring Talib Kweli (which is on Gramatik’s Re:Coil EP that he released last year). Balkan Bump draws a bit, as you can imagine, from his Southeastern Roots. He pulls out his trumpet and blasts away over some tracks.
In his track “Irfan”, the trumpet really almost sounds like a Shehnai. He wraps up his set, thanking the crowd profusely for coming out on his first tour. Balkan leaves the stage to a very amped up crowd. The stage resets and more people pour in.
Haywyre takes the stage. Haywyre is from Indiana, so the midwest respects the midwest. Haywyre, well known for his Two Fold Pt. 1 & 2, which came out in 2014 and 2016 respectively. My favorite off his Pt. 2 being “I Am You”. Haywyre is a menace on the keyboard. Which, is his instrument of choice.
He changes it up from straight keys, to synths, to whatever he wants. There was even a part where he shut off everything but straight keys and just did a jazz piano riff into a remix of “Sorry Mrs. Jackson”. The crowd ate that up.
Haywyre likes a thick, slappy bass. He really bases a lot of his song’s structure off a slow and deep to bass. He then plays high octave on the keys to counteract that so you get a flurry of highs and lows and that’s really makes his music jump out at you. He gets really into it. He did a great 80 minute set, addresses the crowd one more time before jumping into his last song. He does one more piano riffs and jumps into a remix of “Smooth Criminal”. Pretty awesome.
As Haywyre exits the stage, it is about midnight and this place is packed. People anxiously await Gramatik. He is currently touring on his EP “Re:Coil, Pt. 1”. Gramatik performs up at the stage with a guitarist that feeds riffs into his tracks. He contorts them and spins them out into something fresh. He really mashes up a lot of instruments and mashes them together into tracks.
He takes the stage at around 12:30. I’m betting there is a great story why he constructed his stage in a way that no photographers can be on the stage. It’s also the first time skyway has been upfront about that too. He jumps into a few great tracks. He’s putting together a beat while the guitarist is riffing some Jimi Hendrix. It’s heavy, the crowd is losing it.
I am no expert in EDM music, but Gramatik is more of a ones and twos expert. He’ll take a great track, mix in the guitar and make something really great by tweaking it. Which is a bit different than the other artists tonight that have a track and play over it. In my mind, Gramatik is more old school in that way. One of my favorite tracks of his is “The Unfallen Kingdom” (2009), very simple track. Just a great beat and some keys from about nine years ago. Or “Just Jammin'” (2014) is a beat, keys, and a guitar riffing. He kills at simplicity.
He just has a third ingredient that makes him on the edge of something great. You don’t really know what to expect out of him. Gramatik can hit all aspects of the spectrum. He can play a bright, beautiful slow beat like “Recovery” and then lead into something more frantic and explosive like, “Voyager Twins”. He knows how to play a crowd.
Gramatik puts on a great show. Haywyre and Balkan Bump were a great one-two punch to blast off this show. It was absolutely packed to the back rafters. You should definitely check him out as he is just beginning his Re:Coil Tour.