A mass of people flocked to their instruments under a blue-lit stage. For the next two hours, GRiZ’s contagious energy was amplified not only by a live show but his impressive 14-piece live funk band. Adoration spread from the stage back to row 70 as the crowd embraced the focal point and mutual love fanned across Red Rocks. There were lights and lovers, rainbows pressed on clothing and sunflowers being waved like flags. Was it the excess of sax that inspired the free love or the amount of love that propelled the sax? Whatever it was, the new Colorado-resident sold passion on a 6th-grade band instrument.
Friday kicked off a two-night run at Red Rocks for electro-soul musician GRiZ. Night one featured fellow Michigan-natives Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers followed by Flint Eastwood. And if nothing else, the night was full of love.
Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers took the stage — winning “Best Dressed” in their fantastical rave outfits — providing easy listening and easy dancing with their uplifting anthems. Their new songs were frankly their best. There was a classic drive-up diner feel and new soul twinge to them that marked a placeholder for a promising future.
Flint Eastwood’s borderline manic performance elicited a proper dancing reaction. As natural light faded and artificial colors took over, the packed house kept gyrating until the end. Her determination flows through the music. She moves fast and uses gravelly battle cries to get the audience jumping. It was truly a rock ‘n’ roll moment from the indie-rock redhead. Like Twenty One Pilots meeting Flyleaf, hers was the only act any given audience member could both headbang and cut shapes to.
Finally, she urged the crowd to “Muster up some anger and let it all out. This night is all about love.” They obliged. Everyone was ready for GRiZ.
His show gave love to a lot of genres including electronic, jazz, rock, reggae, soul, funk and R&B. In such energy, simplicity is often lost. But in this case, it wasn’t. One line so embraced the night, it was uncanny. The crowd only relinquished a taste of “Good Times Roll,” but its message held on — “Don’t that feel real funky, y’all?” Even through the crooning down moments, where at one point GRiZ sat down on the steps to simply admire his band, a certain élan was felt.
GRiZ’s show begged for your rhythm, and the whole audience got down and dancy with it. No one was rhythmless Friday night, feeling the intimacy of the show even to a sold-out amphitheater. The crowd threw their top halves so far forward they practically bowed to the saxophonist and his posse. His curly, peroxide tinted hair bounced dutifully along with the beat. A lightened aura propelled the band forward, and at any point, one could squint past the expressive lights and see them boogying along, laughing with each other between punch-you-in-the-gut high notes.
The energy of the night could be summed up in the callback requested of the audience — “All we need in this world is more love.”
After the jaw-dropping performance from the first night, it quickly became clear that GRiZ was bringing something unprecedented to the stage for Saturday. Videos and posts flooded social media, praising the live band show for the overwhelming sense of connectivity and reiteration of unbound love. GRiZ fans both in attendance and afar gathered to confirm the magic felt and seen from the live band. It was an injection of hope that the world desperately needed, and fans couldn’t wait to keep the vibes going throughout the weekend.
Feeling the early buzzing excitement from the stands, Red Rocks virgin Freddy Todd started the night off with a face-melting performance. Without skipping a beat, the Detroit native dove right into the heavy hitters, resulting in a unanimous “stank face” and thrown elbows from the crowd. After dropping banger after banger with little time to recuperate in-between, looks of bewilderment filled attendees eyes as we wondered how the night could possibly get any hotter when the stage was already on fire.
A sharp but necessary contrast to the headbanging set by Freddy Todd, Canadian electronic group Pomo took a more relaxed approach to their stage presence. Fans grooved along to the recognizable remixes and funky guitar injections, a much-appreciated cool down before GRiZ.
As the sun set and the stands filled in, the anticipation became almost unbearable for the return of GRiZ. With no DJ booth on stage, attendees questioned where GRiZ would play or if there was possibly a delay, as there was very little crew onstage during the setup and no deck in sight. A genuine performer at heart, Grant began the set on time and with an unpredictable entrance that surprised even the most veteran GRiZ fans. Like a true rock star and without missing a beat, GRiZ danced to the raised platform in front of the screen, taking the mic to sing the first song like his life depended on it. “Is there anything this guy can’t do?” fans wondered as his voice serenaded the stands for a downright sexy entrance.
As he quickly proved throughout the rest of the performance, there really is no limit to GRiZ’s talent. This was a show like no other, one that was clearly backed by countless hours of blood, sweat and tears from the entire GRiZ team. The energy was perfectly summed up by the fire cannons that shot off from the stage during the hottest tracks. The collective vibe felt from every corner of the venue was packaged into a ball of fire that shot an unavoidable warmth over the stands.
From the laser showers that created a cage around GRiZ and Muzzy Bear during the peak of the set to one of the most on-point saxophone performances by Grant ever heard, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that every single person on GRiZ’s team gave 100 percent for these shows. Preconceived notions as to what a Red Rocks performance should be were obliterated this past weekend, setting the bar to impossible heights for future artists.
Both new and seasoned GRiZ fans left with a renewed admiration for the artist. GRiZ pulled off what many hope to achieve but few fully execute — a butterfly effect of love, hope and camaraderie that will continue to ripple throughout the fans for a lifetime. GRiZ served as a beacon of hope in a world crippled by anxiety, reminding us we “gotta push on.” The light at the end of the tunnel is never far, all we need sometimes is a guide to show us the way.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.