By Clara Goode
Photos by Ryan Purcell
Gramatik continued the North American promotion tour for his latest EP, “Epigram,” with a sold out performance at the Georgia Theatre in Athens last Wednesday night. The venue itself is beautiful. It consists of multiple balcony levels, a rooftop bar, and a photo gallery which I wandered through before the show began. The dance floor is smaller than I expected. However, with the incredible balconies you are almost guaranteed to be able to find a place to see the stage clearly.
Jenaux, the first opener, comes on stage at around 8:45 p.m. The crowd is still small at this point, but grows steadily through his set. It is a bit of a rough start for the show. His set is good, but feels a little underdeveloped with too long pauses between tracks and jarring genre changes that make continuous dancing a little difficult. The crowd, however is very encouraging, showing him affection when he plays a track that really encourages them to dance, then swaying and sipping on drinks when the tempo slows.
Brasstracks takes the stage next. The duo of brass and drums played a mix heavy with hip hop, drawing yells of appreciation from the young audience. Rap and dubstep overlaid with live trumpet and percussion is a definite win to the college crowd of tank tops and cargo shorts. The scene is dotted with a few hippy chicks and members of the alternative crowd, but for the most part, cheap beer and backwards caps abound. Brasstracks keeps the energy high and the dance floor is fills quickly through their set.
By the time Gramatik takes the stage, the venue is full to bursting. I tried to push my way to the front, but soon thought better of it after realizing that even if I made it, dancing would be a difficult and possibly painful experience. I retreat to one of the multiple balconies, affording myself a better view and more room to move. The show is excellent, though not what I expected. His sound is heavier, darker, more hip hop and dubstep than the chill jazz groove of his older music.
The crowd is not the least bit disappointed in the deviation, which has been heard over the last couple of years in albums like the “#digitalfreedom EP” that came out in 2015 and his most recent EP, Epigram which dropped this year. Gramatik's last couple of albums have moved away from funky swing rhythms and have adopted a much darker tone. Andrew Block, a New Orleans based funk, soul and rhythm & blues guitar player joins Gramatik on stage for some added flavor to the show. The dancers who moved to stage level during Brasstracks are now part of the packed mass that is moving together, chanting along and yelling with the music. They bounce to deep rhythms and popular hip hop samples, belting the lyrics and cheering when they recognize a favorite.
The light show is incredible. The backdrop constantly changes between images and patterns all equally bright and captivating. Scenes play in vivid lights, from cute robots, to monsters, to a bold nod toward the online hacker community Anonymous, with alternating shots of their question mark logo mixed with a mass of Guy Fawkes masks. It's a fully entertaining performance.
Last year was a year of huge success for the producer with a world tour, a feature on the Netflix original, “Narcos,” and an interview with CNN’s Lisa Lang. With a sold-out and happy crowd, Gramatik’s visit to Athens is a promising start to a new a year that hopes to be better than the last.