Big Gigantic throw down at Hollywood Palladium with a host of special guests in support of their new album ‘Brighter Future 2’

Big GiganticBy Josh Herwitt //

Big Gigantic with Goldfish, Party Pupils, Covex //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
July 9th, 2022 //

You might not be aware, but Big Gigantic have been releasing new music consistently for more than a decade now.

The longest stretch between albums for the instrumental electronic/hip-hop/jazz act from Boulder, Colo., in fact, has been less than four years, and after dropping 2020’s Free Your Mind just before the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken have already delivered another fresh set of tracks to tickle our earholes.

Hitting 18 U.S. cities this summer in support of an eighth LP entitled Brighter Future 2 that dropped last month, the duo took the stage at the Hollywood Palladium last Saturday for its first proper LA show in a while. The last time we caught Big G in the City of Angels (read our review here) ourselves, they were at another Tinseltown venue only a few blocks away and it was there that I began to wonder if I was too old to be attending their shows.

Big Gigantic - Dominic Lalli

Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli

Well, more than seven years have passed since then and I guess not much has changed for yours truly. Even though I didn’t happen to catch Lalli and Salken when they played The Novo in 2018, I have seen plenty of Big G performances from Avalon Hollywood to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. But this was the first tour I have witnessed that has included multiple special guests, and on this night a modest-sized crowd was treated to appearances by Covex, Party Pupils, Goldfish and ELOHIM — to name a few — during their roughly 90-minute set.

Lalli has always been at the center of things for Big G. The formally trained saxophonist who went to the Manhattan School of Music spent a few years touring with Colorado funk ensemble The Motet before he started making electronic music in 2008 but has become a seasoned veteran on the decks at this point. And with Salken laying the beat down on top of Lalli’s production, they had no problem filling the entire 4,000-person ballroom with their big (gigantic) sound.

As the years pass and I find myself listening to less and less EDM, I know there’s always Big G to bring me back to my more youthful days. Who knows when they’ll return to SoCal, and with coronavirus cases in California on the rise again, it’s hard to know when the next throwdown will be. Until then, we’ll make sure to savor every last moment of this one.

Jhené Aiko turns a hometown show at Avalon into her own living room party

Jhené AikoBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Jhené Aiko //
Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles
November 21st, 2016 //

Jhené Aiko really, really, really didn’t want to leave her home.

A rare, chilly breeze hawked through LA, but it wasn’t that or the pre-Thanksgiving traffic preventing the alluring Ladera Heights singer-songwriter from avoiding La Brea Ave. or the 101 freeway. Most of the city’s residents would empathize with either headache, but when you’re enjoying an ambiance-filled dwelling with a harp, cello, drums, stylish candles and feathery smoke all while being surrounded by some of your closest friends on a bunch of plush couches and bean bags, it becomes even more understandable.

Lucky for Aiko (and more importantly for us as spectators), Red Bull Sound Select decided to double their duties as a temporary moving company. Ever the gracious host, she was more than agreeable to the modification, welcoming her new hometown friends to a cozy world decorated with special guests and blue party cups of engaging melodies for a living room “jam” that will not be soon forgotten.

While much of Red Bull Sound Select’s annual 30 Days in LA series focuses on providing a platform for up-and-coming artists, Hollywood’s historic and spacious club Avalon offered a whole different feel for the fully formed Aiko. With tie-dyed merchandise of Aiko’s face being sold inside and self-embroidered shirts being hustled outside, the show felt surprisingly big, unforeseen only because Aiko’s music — delicate, sly and often vulnerable — is not what you would imagine ringing throughout the multilevel venue that routinely hosts DJs with frenetic and flashy light shows to entertain raging partygoers. On this night though, it was perfect.

Jhené Aiko

Slipping to the front of her foggy living room a little after 10 p.m. to excited screams, Aiko tucked away any of those doubts into a satiny topcoat while also keeping her footing atop slow-dripping piano keys. Kicking things off with “New Balance”, she patiently explored unexpected love on the fan-favorite opener that she was pushed to release in August by TWENTY88 collaborator and G.O.O.D. Music rapper Big Sean.

It’s been said that it’s not a true house party until the arrival of unexpected guests. There are those you turn the music down for before escorting out and those whom you hand the mic to in order to keep things going, and Aiko opted for the latter in sticking with the theme of the night. Big Sean, the Detroit emcee and second half to her conceptual relationship, joined his rumored real-life beau as the two traded pleasant yearnings, playful remarks, embraces and back-and-forth vibes during their onstage collaboration that was highlighted by “On the Way” from Aiko’s self-titled studio album, which was released earlier this year.

Despite her soothing and beautifully gentle voice, Aiko’s music is not just seeped in ballads of love found or love lost. Sex, infidelity, drugs, encouragement, motherhood and more subjects fuse together to produce a great sense of relatability to her audience, which she played to by having intimate and good-natured conversations with the audience during her hour-long set. The evening was capped off with more fun in the form of R&B singer Omarion’s “Post to Be” featuring Aiko and Grammy winner Chris Brown, who emerged onstage with his signature pizzazz for a slowed-down acoustic version of the platinum smash.

This, like the rest of Aiko’s performance, was backed by a badass band, as each member took turns soloing to keep the good energy flowing all night. Between standout songs “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestlye)”, “The Worst” and “The Vapors” (which Long Beach rapper Vince Staples joined her for) from her Sail Out EP and its LP predecessor Souled Out, her living room party also became a lesson in welcoming the complex rewards and penalties of susceptibility.

Jhené Aiko with Big Sean

Jhené Aiko with Big Sean

“Maybe I have made mistakes and been through my fair share of pain. But all in all, it’s been OK, I’ve lived well,” Aiko sang, flashing a slight smile that matched the evening’s appreciative vibe over “Eternal Sunshine”.

Nevertheless, prior to kicking us out, Aiko wanted to make sure we got home safely.

“I stay up all night for you, I’m a trooper. Call and request, I pick up, pull up quick as Uber,” said Aiko, turning the aggressive line from her recently released and sensual single “Maniac” into a PSA for concertgoers to make sure they find a safe way to get home.

And before we left, Aiko gave out gift bags in the form of song requests from the crowd as she morphed into an old-school lounge singer. Stepping back into the cold air before hopping into an Uber, my driver asked me where I was coming from.

“The coolest house party I’ve been to in a while,” I told him.

New Balance
Living Room Flow
Déjà Vu (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
On the Way (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
Comfort Inn Ending
Eternal Sunshine
Bed Peace
Vapors (with Vince Staples)
Drunk Texting / Post to Be / Drunk Texting Breakdown (with Chris Brown)
The Worst

Space Jam

Am I too old now to be going to Big Gigantic shows?

Big GiganticBy Josh Herwitt //

Big Gigantic //
Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles
June 19th, 2015 //

It was more than five years ago when I first discovered Big Gigantic.

With its inclusion of the jazz, hip-hop and electronic worlds into their bass-heavy club bangers, the Boulder-based duo comprised of saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken quickly captured my attention as one of music’s most intriguing up-and-coming acts amid America’s 21st-century EDM boom. There was no one else doing quite like what they were doing. Between Lalli’s sexy saxophone lines, Salken’s thundering hip-hop beats and the help of a laptop computer, Big Gigantic was already one of a kind. It was like they had created a new genre of music, or “jazztronica” as I like to call it.

A few months later, I got to witness Big G’s energy first hand when I saw them open for Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) at a sold-out Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It was then and there that I started to understand how “big” their sound really was and could be.

Since then, Lalli and Salken have come a long way. They have released four full-length albums and played at nearly every major U.S. music festival out there, from Bonnaroo to Coachella to Firefly to Electric Forest. And this September, they will headline their fourth “Rowdytown” show at Red Rocks, a feat that Lalli and Salken can both be very proud of as current Colorado residents. It’s all resulted in a burgeoning fan base, one that continues to grow outside the 303 and 720 area codes.

Big Gigantic - Dominic Lalli

Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli

At this point, I have seen Big Gigantic perform more than 10 times — more times than I can remember, in fact. I have lost track of the number not because the shows were unsatisfying or unmemorable, but more because there have been so many in such a short amount of time. But after turning 31 this month, I realize I’m also no spring chicken anymore.

Which brings me to last Friday’s show at Avalon Hollywood, where Big Gigantic made their return to LA after appearing at HARD Day of the Dead a few months earlier (a Big G show in the local area that I actually didn’t attend). Having noticed over the past two years that the fans seem to get younger and younger with each show I’m at, I was fully prepared to see some recent high school graduates packing the dance floor when I arrived before Big G’s headlining set. Of course, it didn’t help that Avalon is well-known as an 18-and-over venue, but it’s certainly not the only one in LA either.

Big Gigantic - Jeremy Salken

Big Gigantic’s Jeremy Salken

Nevertheless, the audience on this night immediately made me feel old. Had I not run into a friend who is also in his fourth decade, I might have thought I was the only one in the room who was no longer living at home and going to school. I had felt this way at Big G shows in Colorado, but LA had yet to catch up. The real topper, though, came late in their set, when another male quite possibly 10 years my junior encouraged me to make a move on my girlfriend of more than three years. It wasn’t completely surprising knowing both my girlfriend and I share a rather youthful appearance that can often catch people off guard, so I simply chuckled and explained to him that we have lived together for almost two years now, a detail I could tell he was shocked to learn just by the expression on his face. It was a clear sign that I was no longer in the majority of the band’s fan base. I was and am simply an outlier now.

Big Gigantic, meanwhile, sounded as clean as ever. Taking the stage around 12:30 a.m. and running through a setlist highlighted by remixes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us” and Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A …”, they had the Hollywood crowd ebbing and flowing until almost the 2 a.m. mark. Both Lalli and Salken have grown tremendously as performers, from Lalli’s production expertise and techniques to Salken’s timing and chemistry when it comes to the music’s improvised sections. And yet, they are still as funky as ever, which makes a lot of sense coming from Lalli, a formally trained saxophonist from the Manhattan School of Music who spent years playing with Colorado funk ensemble The Motet before founding Big Gigantic in 2008.

But as EDM’s sphere of influence continues to spread across the industry, so has Big G’s fan base, with many being of the younger variety. It’s left older fans like myself in a precarious position, one that feels unnatural even with so many shows under my belt. It’s why I can’t help but ask myself, “Have I exceeded the age demographic of a Big Gigantic show?”

Because even if I’m not too old yet, it’s sure starting to feel that way.