There’s plenty to be said about a stripped-down, completely acoustic live music performance. The purity of the musicianship, the lack of distraction from the lyrics and melodies, the sweetness of the sonic experience—it all adds up to something sublime, almost supremely so.
Rest assured, Big Gigantic’s “Live 3D” show at The Novo in downtown Los Angeles featured almost nothing of the sort. But that didn’t make that performance any less magnificent than those on the opposite end of the spectrum. If anything, the band’s groundbreaking combination of light and sound totally transformed the notion of what live music can be.
The Boulder, Colorado-based duo debuted its multi-dimensional display during its annual “Rowdytown” shows at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver this past September. Fortunately for fans of Big Gigantic, the group subsequently decided to take this particular act on the road.
Thanks to the sleek 3D glasses handed out at the door, the spectacular effects on screen did more than provide a psychedelic backdrop for saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken; they intertwined with the music itself to unwind a playful narrative, all the while mimicking the feeling of the “Star Tours” ride at Disneyland for a packed house of 2,400 attendees.
There were tunnels transporting the audience into alternate dimensions, spikes of water jutting out from the screen, and twirling spaceships that cleverly appeared to hover over both the band and the crowd. Where most electronic dance music acts might simply rip other artists’ songs as content to fill their sets, Big Gigantic paid homage to those they covered—with an animated head of Cardi B as Carmen Miranda for “I Like It,” with a landscape lit by bonfires for Knife Party’s “Bonfire,” with varieties of greenery for Kanye West’s “Get ‘Em High,” Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar” and Jay-Z’s “Dope Boy Fresh”; and with astronauts floating through darkness for David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey.”
But the litany of covers did nothing to detract from the overall act. Those tracks, along with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us” and the Crookers remix of Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Night,” kept revelers moving between Big G’s own Rolodex of hits, from the GRiZ collaborations “C’mon” and “Good Times Roll” to “All of Me” with Logic and Rozes—which included a Ready Player One-style animation of an old sports car zooming through a landscape with billboards of Logic’s animated avatar. to “The Night is Young” featuring Cherub and “Get On Up,” backed by a brigade of dancing astronauts.
Many of the visual motifs sprinkled throughout the set made repeat appearances, none more than the astronauts. They danced to “Get On Up,” destroyed streets with laser beams shot from behind their visors and, during the stretch run of the main set and in the encore, battled anthropomorphic saxophones, Tekken-style.
All the while, Dom and Jeremy expertly curated their sounds to the stunning animations that came to life around them. Though they weren’t nearly the focus of the show that they’ve been in performances past, the titular heads of Big Gigantic proved to be naturals in their parts creating a transportive, multi-sensory adventure wherein it didn’t much matter which element was the star. By ceding some of their central role for the benefit of their visual effects team, Big Gigantic spawned a scene that was bigger and more gigantic than anything they—or just about anyone else—has ever put together in a live setting. The different dimensions were as harmonious as complementary pieces as they were exhibitions worthy of individual study.
In truth, then, it wouldn’t be entirely fair to judge what Big Gigantic accomplished against a more traditional concert. If anything, this live 3D show belongs in its own class of audio-visual performance art—one that already includes the likes of Flying Lotus and, with any luck, will see its ranks explode in the years to come.