Musical duo Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken – also known as Big Gigantic – had as much fun performing as their audience did jamming Friday night at the Old City Courtyard.
"Knoxville is one of those spots we're always excited to come to," Salken, drummer of the instrumental livetronica group, said. "People rage every time we come. It's just insanely rowdy and insanely fun."
Big Gigantic's 2009 Knoxville debut witnessed crowd members rushing the stage and knocking over instruments in a fervent display of audience enthusiasm. Perhaps due to this notorious rowdiness, extra security measures were taken for Friday's jam-packed show.
"I'm very surprised at the amount of security here," Caroline Hendricks, senior in food science, said. "I don't think I've seen this many security guards at a show in Knoxville before. But this is also the most crowded I've ever seen the Courtyard. It's packed."
Salken said he believes one reason young people are so passionate about Big Gigantic's music – and the electronic movement as a whole – is the generational ownership they uniquely possess over it.
"For this new, younger generation, electronic music is their thing," Salken said. "For Dom and I, we grew up idolizing a lot of the amazing alternative rock that was happening in the '90s, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Then jam bands like Phish came along and hugely inspired how we play. Now there's this whole electronic movement and I think kids feel so connected to it because it's not their mom or dad's music.
"It's never been done before."
The growing popularity of the genre is an indicator that electronica is here to stay, Salken said.
"It doesn't feel like it's stopping anytime soon," Salken said. "It's interesting to see how it's morphing. I feel like the music is peaking right now and growing into this crazy thing. There's just so many people playing electronic music and exploring it as a genre."
For Salken and Lalli, both of whom have extensive musical backgrounds, their foray into the electronic movement was more organic than intentional.
"We have a huge background in almost everything other than electronic music," Salken said with a chuckle. "This is all ... new to us. We both grew up playing jazz and funk."
Salken, who started playing drums at age 3, has previously played in a hardcore band, a jam band and a bluegrass group. Lalli, Big Gigantic's saxophonist and producer, received his master's degree in jazz performance at the Manhattan School of Music.
Attending the performances of groups like Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Pnuma Trio inspired the duo to experiment electronically themselves.
"We would go see DJs we liked and wondered, 'How can we do that but still play our instruments?'" Salken said. "It just kind of all fell together and came about very naturally for us."
According to Salken, the duo's diverse experiences in genre exploration and classical training gives Big Gigantic an advantage when it comes to electronica.
"I think we have a big sense of melody in our music," he said. "A lot of our jams, you can kind of sing along to. When Dom started producing tracks, he applied everything he'd learned in school about melodies and chord progressions. It makes our music sound more musical."
The group's Sky High tour will culminate in January 2014 with trips to London and Australia, a first-ever for the Boulder, Colo., based band.
"We've never played outside of North America before, so this is huge for us," Salken said. "We're loving life on the road and getting to meet people, interact with our fans and play music every night. Growing up, I traveled a lot to see bands tour before I was ever playing shows of my own.
"Now I get to do it professionally, which is really cool."
Big Gigantic's newest album, unnamed as of yet, is expected to drop January 2014.