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Growing up in Southfield, Grant Kwiecinski -- aka electronic music artist GRiZ -- knew all about big Christmas celebrations.
"My mom blew it out of the park, every year," recalls GRiZ, 24, a Birmingham Groves graduate who attended Michigan State University for three years before moving full-time into music. "There was always a big Christmas eve with presents before bed, then Santa came and loaded you up with a ton of good crap. Then we'd go over to the grandparents' house and get more stuff...
"Yeah, it was big."
Now GRiZ is planning to create his own plus-sized holiday tradition.
This weekend's GRiZmas concert at Detroit's Masonic Temple is the first of what he hopes will be an annual affair and he's pulling no punches -- from the lineup to "the biggest lighting production budget I ever put together for a show" to special GRiZmas ugly sweaters at the merchandise table.
"GRiZmas is going to be the new thing, the new tradition," says GRiZ, who splits his time these days between homes in downtown Detroit and Boulder, Colo. -- when he's not jetting around playing shows or recording, at least. "Whenever we do a show in Michigan it becomes a very big deal for us, and it'll be even bigger this time."
GRiZ certainly has the credentials now to build such a franchise.
A "Disney music freak" who's been playing music since elementary school -- when he took up saxophone to impress a girl he had a crush on -- he acquired his first music production software when he was 14 but really caught the music-making bug during college, when he became enamored with DJs who were playing at parties he attended.
"I made music for my own amusement, really," GRiZ recalls. "I was always a music listener. It was a huge part of my life. But once I went to college and started going to parties and seeing what kids were playing at the co-ops and stuff like that. The DJs would come in and play, and I was like, 'Cool, everyone's playing everyone else's music. How can I do it and play my own music and make it more of a performance instead of just being a DJ at a party.
"So I started playing my saxophone and DJing electronic music. It was edgy, and then I started putting together these seven minute long opuses of crazy, glitchy sound design and really finding my own kind of music in all this."
The exploration has produced two albums, "Mad Liberation" and "Rebel Era," which GRiZ has distributed for free, as well as the side project GrizMatic with EDM cohort Gramatik and a series of remixes, including a highly regarded revision of Aerosmith's "Dream On."
With is blend of live instrumentation and in-the-moment sound sampling and mixing, GRiZ has become a staple on the international festival circuit as well, including Detroit's Movement, the Electric Forest in Rothbury, Mich., Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Coachella and others. And in March he plans to release a new album, for which he worked funk musicians in New York and Detroit.
"I really love the electronic dance music world," notes GRiZ, who recently released a new track, "A Fine Way to Die," from the album. "It's very special and important to me. My whole life is built around it. But the golden era of funk and soul music, man, that's the (stuff) that makes my heart melt and what I'm going for with this record.
"I really want to do (music) that still connects with your body but gives you this whole other level of surprise and anticipation to fell. I want to create this whole new echelon of energy you can feel and have fun with."
GRiZmas 2014 featuring GRiZ, Odesza, Will Sessions and Gosh Pith
Saturday, Dec. 20. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Masonic Temple 500 Temple Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $28.50-$46.50.
Call 313-638-2724 or visit www.themasonic.com.
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