Gibbzmatik & Lowtemp Crew Kept Webster Hall Going All Night [3.21.14]
Nothing gets me more amped than live music on a Friday night, and those who made it out to Webster Hall this past Friday witnessed the beginning of the beautiful and rare musical synthesis that is Gibbzmatik. Combining Gramatik’s heavy funk/hip-hop/soul, even dubstep sound with Gibbz’s velvety vocals, groovy guitar, and lighter R&B energy, Gibbzmatik delivered beyond the highest of expectations. If you thought things couldn’t get better, they were also joined by the whole Lowtemp label and special guests.
For anyone who has been to Webster, you know it’s a sea of madness on the weekends, but being Gramaddicts with no plans to recover, my partner in crime and I were more than willing to swim. Once through the doors, we dropped into the main floor around 11pm, and was the crowd ever rowdy. They hadn’t opened up the stairs for Gibbzmatik & crew yet, and the room was brewing over with anticipation. Swallowed up by the sea of energy, we bumped into a fellow Forester and immediately felt like family; he was a long-lost friend we never knew we didn’t have. All sticking together to brave the storm, we drifted up the stairs as they lifted the rope on the entry.
ILLUMNTR was up first, permeating the room with lofty, honey-like vocals, 808 beats, and trippy guitar riffs. The simple symmetrical lights floating behind Bryn Austin Bellomy and John Wesley Russell emulated the night sky in a place very far away from the city, and lent well to the ethereal and psychedelic vibe of this deep space gospel outfit. The duo tore through their set and the crowd filtered in – not quite packed yet. We made a quick stop at the bar, and ventured upstairs for a high view of the cosmic sky. We swayed our way through the set, and before we knew it, Branx was firing up the room with his signature syncopated beats and heavy bass. The crowd rapidly warmed up to this change of pace and sound, and the dance party began. Every time I’ve seen Branx open, his dynamic sound pulls intense enthusiasm from the crowd – They love him and he returns that love with unexpected sonic twists and turns that sustain the crowd’s verve. To top it off, Orlando Napier rolled in with his stellar pipes to add a super soulful collaboration to the setlist.
Next up was the alluring R&B, future-funk, soul powerhouse that is Exmag! At that moment, we realized there were upwards of twenty people on the stage, dancing and hanging out behind the guys as they transported the crowd into a retro yet futuristic lapse, colored with more genres and sultry guitar solos than their rainbow stage lights. I love that Exmag brings their homies. As a Brooklyn-based group that insists on not being taken too seriously, it’s humbling to see them disrupt the boundaries typically set between artist and fan. Even Marshall McGee, the 18 year old hybrid of Gramatik and GRiZ we saw on Reddit, could be seen on stage (check out our Track of the Day feature). Everybody’s equal – we’re all just trying to have a fantastic Friday night together.
It was at this point in the night when my friend looked at me and said, “I feel like I’m at the main stage for the headliner.” Insert your favorite festival – I’m sure you’ve had the feeling: the music is just THAT good, and it’s not quite summer, and that little spark of the past and the future flashes in your head, and you’re at the main stage, figuratively. In true fashion of the genre, people are friendly for the sake of friendliness. I ran into a fellow funk-lover having the time of his life at one of the bottle service tables – turns out he had never heard any of the Lowtemp brothers; he had bought a table for the original show that night which was postponed, but of course he was an instant convert, and loving every minute of the show.
Amidst all the good vibes in the audience, Exmag dazzled the crowd, playing a favorite from their recently released debut album, Proportions, “Junk In That Thang,” their take on Black Street’s “No Diggity” with “Proportions,” and remixing GRiZ’s dreamy rendition of “Fall In Love Too Fast.” Adrian Lau made an appearance as well, complementing Exmag’s sound with some fast-paced rapping.
We knew we were in this for the long haul, but did the thought that we might get sleepy cross our minds? Negative. This show kept the entire venue energized and pumped until 3am, when Gibbzmatik graced the stage! The duo debuted their collaboration with Gramatik’s eastern European-inspired track “The Drink Is Called Rakja” from Beats & Pieces, Vol. 1 and one of my all-time favorites, “Just Jammin’.” The room was already charged, and now it was overflowing with exhilaration; everyone was smiling, dancing hard, and hours past breaking a sweat. Gramatik mixed as Gibbz jammed on an electric white guitar, and lent his glowing vocals to sexy tracks from his new EP, “Do It For You” and “Again and Again.” Gibbz’s guitar gave fresh, interesting, and funky embellishments on Gramatik’s tracks. They even collaborated on some unfamiliar tracks to the crowd, bordering more on house and Gibbz’s territory in electro-pop/R&B. The change of pace was refreshing.
Around 3:45am, Gibbzmatik presented an innovative take on “Expect Us,“ adding guitar and bringing none other than trumpet extraordinaire Eric Benny Bloom of Lettuce, the Pretty Lights live band, and The Shady Horns to the stage, who had come straight from playing with Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl that night. The crowd went wild. Really wild. I personally could barely contain myself, and had to snap a quick video; if I could’ve stopped dancing for the whole song, it would undoubtedly have been longer, but I digress – check it out to the right!
“Expect Us” was followed by Gibbz’s infectious track “Again and Again,” then pushed back with some intense crowd-pleasing dubstep influence with Gramatik’s “Illusion of Choice” (who can resist that epic shriek), and balanced back out with Orlando Napier himself on the soulful cut “Faraway” from The Age of Reason. The push and pull of intense and smooth continued with “Liquified,” one of Gramatik’s best hip-hop creations. Around 4:15am, with a firm cut off from Webster at 4:30am, enter Exmag and Gibbz’s pipes for “Juke.” Finally, Gibbzmatik closed out Webster with Gramatik’s “23 Flavors,” expanded with some super groovy and crucial guitar from Gibbz to form a legendary sound and inspire a dance frenzy from the dedicated crowd. Gibbzmatik ended the night with a serious bang and left the entire crowd wanting more – we couldn’t believe it was already 4:30. Almost everyone who hit the stage that night stuck around to chat with lingering fans.
If you’re ever committing yourself to a five and a half hour show, the Lowtemp brothers will more than deliver and make you forget what sleep is, so catch them if you ever have the chance! You’ll be going all night; that’s my Lowtemp guarantee.
Photos of Gibbzmatik by Patrick Hughes Photography.
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