This last Halloween will mark the night that Milwaukee was blessed with having the two funkiest G’s in the electronic music scene grace the stage of the massive Eagle’s Ballroom, otherwise known as The Rave. The mid-west funk fam was in full force, made obvious with a jam-packed, sold out venue. Thousands of party goers decked out in their scariest, silliest, and trippiest costumes eagerly awaited Ghoul’s Night to get the funk down. With a stacked line up consisting of Colorado native Late Night Radio, Brooklyn’s finest funk soul brothers, Exmag, the one and only Jmac, aka Manic Focus, and the super duo headliner known as Grizmatik, the night was destined to be one for the history books. Or so….at least I had expected it to be…
To say the least, my Halloween was certainly eventful. After a last minute costume change, I had finally decided to take the robe from my hotel and wear it, along with a shower cap over my hat, to The Rave, which was conveniently located across the street. The outside of the venue was decked out in Halloween decorations and lights. Its massive size gave off an eerie tone through large, casted shadows – perfect for the occasion. I sprinted from my hotel across the street and into the venue, as the chill that hung in the air had to be about twenty-five degrees. Happily inside the venue, the feeling quickly faded as I realized I was submerged into what seemed like a sea of spun children absolutely clueless about anything going on in reality. This was an ‘All Ages’ show after all.
The security lines were incredibly long, with lines being separated by gender, only adding to the confusion. I asked one security guard if there was a separate line for guest list or media (there usually is), to which he told me to stand and wait for a random guy to get back who would know the answer. After waiting about ten minutes, I gave up and pushed my way through the crowds of people towards another security guard. I asked him the same question, to which he was also clueless. I decided to just stand in one of the lines. Eventually I made it to the security guard checking bags who was being yelled at by his superior to “CHECK AND GO, CHECK AND GO!” This resulted in having my camera equipment and other belongings hastily thrown down the tables, causing me to gather everything in a hurry before more damage could be done.
I walked up the stairs and was met with yet another mob, now standing at the will call and guest list area. There were three separate booths for will call, and each was separated by the first letter of last names; however, nothing dictated this all too properly so everyone kept going to the wrong booths, including myself. After getting in the correct line, I made it to the window only to run into some issues with the guest list. While trying to figure everything out,some plus sized lady I’d like to refer to as the B.I.C. (Bitch in Charge) started to yell at the female worker who was trying to help me out. She was literally reduced to tears as I saw her make up start to drip down under her eyes. Eventually, everything was all settled after a few back and forth phone calls and I was finally on my way. By the time I got in, Exmag was just wrapping up their set.
Manic Focus was up next. After hearing his first single off his new album, Cerebral Eclipse, I was beyond stoked to hear the rest of the album live. Unfortunately the sound was super off point, so bad that at one point I had reached to take my ear plugs out and realized that I didn’t even have them in. I know most shows usually make the sound for the headliner the best, but this system was god awful. All you could really make out was the chorus of songs in between segments of muffled bass. John’s such a talented producer and deserves to be able to play out his sounds on some well balanced monitors.
Despite audio issues, Manic still killed it and appeared to have a great time. He played a bunch of tracks off his new album as well as some classics like his remix of Disclosure’s “Latch” and “Money Ain’t A Thang.” He followed up his set by walking the crowd and greeting all of his fans, taking countless numbers of selfies.
After an incredibly long intermission, it was finally time to get the FUNK down. The crowd awaited patiently, though anxious to hear the oh-so funky bass tunes we craved. Grizmatik came on the stage along with Gramatik’s latest guitarist, Andrew Block. The crowd went wild as the jams filled the room which fortunately had much better sound than Manic’s set. The duo played a wide variety of songs from funk, to dubstep, to trap, and of course their classic electro soul grooves. Gramatik dropped fan favorites like “Hit That Jive” followed appropriately by Probmatik’s “Monster Stomp!” Denis also played two of my favorite tracks from The Age of Reason, “Brave Men,” and “It’s Just a Ride,” which was such a treat to hear. He dropped his classic “Take it Back,” as well. This was my first time seeing Andrew Block on guitar and I thought he was a perfect fit for Gramatik’s sounds. Something just sounded so right when he started jamming. His funky riffs along with Griz rippin’ through scales on his sax was music for the soul. Griz certainly had his say in the song selection by dropping one of his new tracks, “A Fine Way To Die,” as well as everyone’s favorite, “Hard Times.” He brought the bass with some hard trap beats, killing a solo to “Talk Dirty To Me” and dropping “Niggas in Paris.” Of course it wouldn’t be a Grizmatik show without hearing “Digital Liberation” and a mashup of “My People” to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Overall, I thought it was a good set but not my favorite. To be honest, after finally seeing them together, I realized that I prefer to see them separate. I love the live guitar and sax combo, but I feel as if Gramatik and Griz’s sounds drifted a bit too far apart over the years to be perfectly mixed into a combo Grizmatik set. Still, despite all the problems at the start of the night, it was one of the funkiest Halloween’s I’ve had thus far.
All photos taken by Kyle Miller of The Saucy Monster for Compose Yourself Mag.