It must be my birthday, because I got to see Gramatik and FLAG in the same night. Pinch me all you want, I know I’m not dreaming. Each of these concerts represent completely different, but equally important parts of my musical make-up, part history and part future. The good news for each concert came Friday when I got a text from my girlfriend telling me she’d won tickets to Gramatik, and later in an email from First Avenue informing me I’d won tickets to FLAG.
My night started at the Skyway Theater, watching the five-man electronic funk project Exmag (including Gramtik and his guitarist Eric Mendelson) in a coordinated glitchy, bluesy effort that worked well in their favor, for the most part. There were only brief moments where one would play over another or miss a step. It was part DJ set, part jam band with blues and funk interspersed throughout and it came off at times as musical spit-balling, seeing what works and what needs work.
Towards the end of Exmag’s set I took my friend to First Ave to see FLAG, who’d just taken the stage. My first thought was that they were old. I’d also just come from a show where the median age for performers was about 25, and these guys were closer to the inverse of that number. The second thought I had was that they were playing their asses off. They ran through each song with such force and ferocity that I thought one of them might not last the show, but they just kept right on one song after the next. Keith Morris sang most of the time I was there, and also possesses the first dread-lock-comb-over that I’ve ever seen. I got to see two of my favorites, ‘White Minority’ and ‘My War’ while we were there and it was every bit the show I wanted it to be.
I got a call from my friends at the Skyway telling me that Gramatik was going on soon, so I retrieved my friend from the mosh pit and left the older, black leather jacket, black t-shirt and black jean head bobbing crowd to re-join the much younger, dancing like nobody’s watching crowd of twenty-somethings.
This was my fifth time seeing Gramatik live (twice as Grizmatik, once as Big Grizmatik and two solo shows) and was impressed yet again. They never disappoint. Electro-funk, hip-hop, regular funk and blues influences mixed together in a convincing, cohesive end product that always leaves you wanting just one more song. It turned out that we were in luck, because the final “one more” song included an appearance by Cherub, who had just finished their set at 7th Street Entry across the street, next to First Avenue. They performed “Obviously,” a song Exmag just released with Cherub and it was a fitting end to an already overwhelmingly good night.