[REVIEW + GALLERY] Big Wild & Phantoms at the Gothic

On a Saturday night, after a chilly day, one man sought out to warm up the people of Denver. This man was Jackson Stell, better known as Big Wild. Jackson hails from Massachusetts, where he began his music career as a hip hop oriented DJ. After a move to California he integrated live piano and drums, transforming his sound more towards light-hearted Island House. This transition is apparent in his music as he bases the sound in boom bap drum patterns while adding groovy synth licks and unique calming samples. Jackson’s style and live artistry have caught the attention of a variety of big names in the EDM world, giving him the opportunity to tour with Odesza, Tycho, Griz and Bassnectar. His popularity is demonstrated by the fact that the Gothic Theater had to add another night to his stay, because the first night sold out so quickly.

Photo: Andre Rodriguez © Electronic Colorado

The venue filled up rapidly with eager fans. The two openers, Imagined Herbal Flows (IHF) and Phantoms, acted as perfect appetizers for the night. IHF, aka Ben Gorvine, started off with a melodic hip hop set that allowed the crowd to come together in a groove, as well as socialize. Phantoms, the duo of Vinnie Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, carried the momentum a bit faster with live drums and vocals. The combination of the vocal connection to the audience and the driving drum beats gathered everybody to the dance floor and got them moving.

Photo: Andre Rodriguez © Electronic Colorado

With the crowd warmed up, it was time for the main event. Big Wild took the stage to an eruption of energy from the audience. The set started with very relaxed, and quickly gave way to more up-beat selections. Throughout the set Jackson switched gradually from heavy trap hits to beautiful crafted music that tugged on the heartstrings, to hip hop blended house. The pacing of the transitions took hold of the audience’s emotions and made the pay offs during his drops all the sweeter. Jackson performed with a keyboard and drumpad, complete with an acoustic high hat and cymbal to give each track an authentic feel. Yes he danced while he DJ-ed, but after a jaw dropping keyboard or drum solo, there was no doubt that this happy man with flowing locks was pouring his focus and attention into crafting a wonderful night for the crowd.

Photo: Andre Rodriguez © Electronic Colorado

The night provided a wonderful showcase for the new Invincible EP, but Big Wild didn’t shy away from bringing in older fan favorites. He blew the crowd away with his remix of Griz’s “For the Love”, and even provided the whistle hook for his remix of “Hey Miami” by Sylvan Esso. His hip hop background broke through as he dropped such remixes as the Ludacris’ “Stand Up” and “All My Friends” by Snakehips. He was even able to sneak in the iconic Metro Boomin tagline “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you”. Throughout the set, his music was paired with visuals of soothing, natural landscapes or minimalist frame by frame animation. These scenes were the perfect backdrop for his set. They added context and emotion without taking the attention away from his musical performance. The showstopper of the night came when Jackson pulled out a wooden drum box known as a Cajón. His lyrical rhythms on this Peruvian instrument left the crowd breathless until he drummed us into his next phenomenal drop.

Photo: Andre Rodriguez © Electronic Colorado

When it was all said and done, we, the crowd, left in silence, smiles galore, with a combination of peace and adrenaline surging through our veins, were hungry for more. So, once again, Stell took the stage to an ecstatic audience. His encore was a triple threat of “Invincible” (the title track to the new album), “Aftergold” (one of Big Wild’s most popular songs) and last but certainly not least “When I Get There” (The banger, if you will, of the new album and by far my most anticipated song of the night). Jackson Stell should be commended not only on his musical prowess, but also on his wonderful ability to make the crowd feel at home with each other and themselves. As we walked back out into the chilly night air, hugging one another and wishing well, we were no longer cold. We had been warmed from the inside out by this musical genius of a man, who goes by Big Wild.

Written by Austin Williams

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