Jai Wolf Brings Beautiful Production to the Skyway

Jai Wolf Skyway Theater Minneapolis

I’m not going to lie, my expectations were low last night for Jai Wolf’s set. I can best describe his set three years ago as the worst parts of ADHD, not unlike that person who takes over the music at a house party and plays the first 15 seconds of about a hundred songs looking for just the right one. Genre-wise, it was all over the place, the songs didn’t mesh in any way, and his transitions were incredibly clumsy.

Jai Wolf at Skyway Theater Minneapolis
Photo – Benjamin Allen

He was also in a transition period at the time, in the beginning stages of finding his sound, and freshly signed to Odesza’s Foreign Family label. So it made sense that his set would be all over the place. He was trying things out and experimenting, which is something many people start at home, but eventually, I guess, you have to extend that to a live setting.

Fast forward to last night. Right off the bat, his first song felt like it was better than his entire set last time. To continue with the ADHD metaphor, it was as if he’d taken Adderall before the show and managed all the parts of a live show with ease.

Just to be clear, I suffer from ADHD myself, and in watching his show last time, I felt like it was a pretty solid representation of what goes on in my head when I’m trying to accomplish something. I’m not just saying it to be funny.

Jai Wolf at the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis
Photo – Benjamin Allen

Jai Wolf also upgraded the hell out of his stage production, comprised of an arc of LED panels on top of what looked to be a kind of stand, backed by a large, ridiculous-definition LED panel that made it look almost like a globe being supported by the other components. Add to that a couple banks of spotlights and a hefty load of lasers, and you’ve got yourself quite the spectacle.

It didn’t all come out at once, though. There was a slow build to the entire show. Music built in tempo and intensity throughout the show until he had worked the crowd into a frenzy where the heavier, whompy sounds were more than welcome. That was also the time that the lighting effects kicked into high gear.

I’d happily see Jai Wolf again (and again) in the future, and I’d recommend you do the same any time you see his name on a festival lineup or a concert listing in your town. You can thank make later.

Jai Wolf at Skyway Theater Minneapolis
Photo – Benjamin Allen

Opening for Jai Wolf was Hotel Garuda in his first Twin Cities appearance as a solo act, following the departure of Manila Killa last year. This set was much more subdued than the rowdy, trap-laden set I had previously experienced.

Aseem, aka Candleweather, aka Hotel Garuda, kept it pretty low-key and surprisingly light on actual Hotel Garuda songs. Throughout the hour, he dropped two Bicep tracks, which is always a good thing in my opinion, but it made me wonder if he’s like Jai Wolf at his last show, trying sounds on for size.

Hotel Garuda Skyway Theater Minneapolis
Photo – Benjamin Allen

Hotel Garuda finished with his latest track, featuring a first-ever feature of his own vocals on ‘Head in the Trees.’ There’s a specific melodic component notably missing from the track, which is something that draws me back to the Hotel Garuda catalog so many times. But it’s new territory for all of us, so it’s reasonable that it won’t be familiar. Hopefully, next time around, he’ll surprise me, too.

Written by Ben Allen

I tell the story of the energy transfer between people who play music and that music's listeners. I photograph and write about festivals and concerts, which I've attended for three decades. I'm also the tall guy you probably got stuck behind at a show. First concert: Nirvana at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Dec 1993. Yes, I am old. Tall and old.


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