Freaky Deaky Milwaukee: In Front of the Rail, Part 2

Three years ago, I stood in the back of a loud crowd at Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois waiting to see my favorite musician play for the first time. That favorite musician goes by the name of GRiZ. He’s a passionate, saxophone player from Detroit who mastered mixing of jazz and funk with dubstep and live sax.

Since then, I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity I’ve had to see GRiZ perform live, (now) a total of 18 sets. I’ve also moved from the back of the crowd, to a hyped fan in the middle, to GRiZ Fam on the rail, and now as media, covering the show for OTB.

I have to preface this set with some background information: this year alone, I had seen some of the most incredible GRiZ live sets.

In May, I headed to Shaky Beats to see “dynamic duo” get down. In June, I witnessed one of my top five GRiZ sets at Spring Awakening, literally crying during the Wicked improv section that left me almost paralyzed when the set was over. I was heartbroken to miss the third GRiZ Rocks for a school event, which made Summer Set this August even more special: a great fest for “My Friends And I” that left me wanting more after his South Park intro and poetic spoken word finale. I had a feeling GRiZ’s name would be on the Freaky Deaky lineup, surely headlining, especially since I hadn’t seen tour dates announced for Chicago or Milwaukee for the Good Will Continue Tour.

Related: Freaky Deaky Milwaukee: In Front of the Rail, Part 1

The minutes in between Flatbush Zombies and GRiZ felt like an eternity. A colorful logo rotated on the screen in front of me and two saxes were set up, gleaming in the soft lights. The anticipation for GRiZ and co-star guitarist, Muzzy Bearr, to take stage was unreal. Nicole and I mingled with fans on the rail, passing them water bottles to hydrate, and taking their pictures as they waited patiently for our favorite artists to melt our faces and change our lives once again.

PC: Nicole Wachnin, OTB Photog

Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin

When the stage lights went black, the crowd erupted in some of the loudest cheers I’d ever heard. He took the stage with Muzzy Bearr in between two light-up cubes about waist-high, and I ran out to the center of the photo pit, ducking down behind a speaker. I heard a wonderful variety of my favorite songs: a fresh mix of old tracks and new tracks, as well as a new collab done live with Boogie T! Within the first three minutes of the set, GRiZ had rushed to the front of the stage, stepping up on the riser with his sax. After snapping a few pics, we took a moment to just look up at our favorite artist as he got down with his sax and danced to the heavy, dubstep drop.

PC: Nicole Wachnin, OTB Photog

Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin

Wicked‘, one of my favorite newer GRiZ songs, was incredible. The boys brought such passion to that song this time. I’ve always admired Muzzy Bearr singing ‘Rather Be Free‘ live and was yet again so impressed by this version as I swayed and clapped along. The gents jammed out at least three times, giving fans the opportunity to really hear the artistry in this set.

PC: Nicole Wachnin, OTB Photog

Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin

I could tell the end of the show was drawing near. A tinge of sadness pierced my heart as the boys ran off to soon return for their final encore. I closed my eyes to reflect and relish in the feelings of great happiness and true love that spread throughout my whole body. I hugged my best friend and smiled at the faces on the rail who I had gotten down with all night long and raged for one last song. It was at this moment I looked down to notice GRiZ’s shoes as they stood in front of my face: Old Skool Vans, possibly the “Lite, Black and White” version. Classic, I thought to myself, until I realized something was written in black sharpie along the white, accent sidestripe.

“Best foot forward,” read the outside of his right shoe. I think I audibly gasped. It felt like it was an Easter egg planted specifically for me since I have a thing for noticing artists footwear. It totally fits his character and personality: a hard-working, compassionate artist who is known for his big heart and bigger smile.

It was bittersweet, listening to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as GRiZ stood on the riser just feet from me, confetti snowing from all angles. This had definitely been one of the most special concerts of 2017 and one of the top five GRiZ sets I have ever been a part of.

He looked out to a convention center full of GRiZ Fam and fans: he was noticeably proud and humbled, radiating love and pure happiness as he thanked the crowd and held a peace sign out for all to see.

His send-off?

“To show love, and spread love” (as always), “to take care of one another,” and to always “follow your dreams.” Thank you, GRiZ and Muzzy, for creating so much love and happiness to share with our world. We can’t wait to see you again! #SLSL <3

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Niki Graham
Hi there! I'm Niki Graham, teacher by day, and bass queen by night! I'm a Purdue Boilermaker from Chicago's North Shore! If I'm not teaching Second Grade or writing for Only the Beat, you might find me working at Grassroots Chicago, interviewing celebrities and creatives for my blog, designing light-up clothes and festival fashion, or walking my Bernese Mountain Dog, Boiler. When I'm not swamped with school and shows, I enjoy playing disc golf, competitive video gaming, cosmetic gaming, beauty blogging, swimming, cooking, and baking. Let's connect! Insta: @nikstagraham
Niki Graham
- 5 days ago
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