GRiZ throws the funk down at the Rex

Last Tuesday electro-funk/soul artists GRiZ and Michal Menert invaded the sold-out Rex Theater and not one person was left standing still. The two rapidly up-and-coming artists, who are currently co-headlining the nationwide “Power In Numbers” tour and have already been announced at multiple summer festivals, played energetic sets that gave the crowd a great taste of their individual styles.

Menert played first, and got the crowd grooving with his often jazzy-sounding hip-hop beats. When performing, Menert partners with a live drummer, which gives the music a distinctive human energy, as well as a high volume. Whipping his trademark long black hair around wildly while behind the deck, Menert would often grab the microphone to offer sweet words about love and life, or, at times, break out into a freestyle rap over his own song. Highlights included a killer remix of “Spirit in the Sky” and his mellow jam “Summer Love.”

Certainly the loudest the crowd got the entire night was when 21-year-old Detroit native Grant Kwiecinski — GRiZ — stepped onto the stage sporting a flatbrim hat, exclaiming “Funk You.” Saxophone in hand, he started the night’s set with his collaboration with fellow electro-soul artist Gramatik, “Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom,” and kept it rolling from there. Highlights from the set included fan-favorite “Better Than I’ve Ever Been,” remixes of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “N**** in Paris,” and of course his signature tune, “Smash the Funk.”

Both artists release all of their music for free. Menert disributes his music via his label Pretty Lights Music’s website prettylightsmusic.com, owned and operated by popular electronic artist and close friend Derek Vincent Smith — EDM star and festival headliner Pretty Lights. GRiZ releases music through his website mynameisgriz.com. GRiZ released his second full-length album, Rebel Era, last September and blew everyone away with an album that was sonically and creatively light years past its predecessor, 2011’s Mad Liberation.

As GRiZ began closing with the adrenaline-pumping anthem “Gettin’ Live,” which begins with blaring horns and a Tupac sample screaming, “Am I wrong if I wanna get it on ‘till I die?,” I looked next to me and saw a man wearing sunglasses bouncing a stick up and down.
At first I didn’t pay much attention, and it took a moment to realize that he was blind.

Can you imagine being blind at a concert? Not being able to see the bright lights flash in time to the music, that ecstatic look when someone’s favorite song comes on? But watching this man get down, with Tupac screaming in his ear just the same as he was mine, was a great reminder of why people come to concerts in the first place.

Music, and especially electronic music, has become wrapped up in providing an “experience” by investing in huge productions with lights and visuals and the whole nine yards. But watching this man have as much fun as I was just by hearing a long-deceased Tupac scream words that now feel like a statement of life’s purpose rahter than a catchy hook for a rap song, proved that no matter how bright the lights are, what truly keeps the people coming back is good music, plain and simple. GRiZ, Michal Menert: thank you for that.