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Magic Giant @ The Foundry – Philadelphia, PA 10/15/17

Photo by Fran Chismar

Music is a medium. Emotions translate into melodies like a blackout-inducing power surge. Songwriters can transform great sadness into song and weave joy into a melody. Heartache and happiness leave their hearts and we absorb them into our souls. This past Sunday at the Foundry in Philadelphia, Magic Giant sent love. Their music hugged me and told me I was pretty. Never had a concert made me feel so loved – unless we include the time I made out with a random girl in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show.  I don’t think that one counts.

As a grassroots movement, Magic Giant sends a clear message – a message of love, hope, and sustainability.  Nature is considered their fourth official member.  Recordings are done outside, using their solar-powered shuttle bus, on their way from show to show.  Hugs are offered to each audience member as they leave the show.  Their tour merchandise is made from re-purposed clothing.  Loyal fans follow the band from city to city standing outside handing out buttons and stickers.  Live shows are executed with a joyful exuberance that leaves you feeling that you just witnessed something special – On October 15th, 2017, I did.

Austin Bisnow realizing there “Ain’t no bottom to this hole.”

Back in mid-September, Magic Giant played a free show for Philadelphia’s Radio 104.5.  The band opened up for some of today’s more popular artists like Sir Sly, Biffy Clyro, New Politics, and Dirty Heads.  That Magic Giant stole the show was the verdict from friend after friend.  I wanted to find out for myself.  Expectations were high – which is never a good situation to be in.  New Coke didn’t live up to the hype, Zune couldn’t compete with iPods, and Suicide Squad was a bomb.  I was prepared to be underwhelmed.

The microphone stand decorations were right out of Steven Tyler’s playbook.  Replacing the multi-colored scarves were thin, floor-length strips of Guatemalan-printed fabrics in wild, brightly-colored prints.  Wooden boxes waited on the floor in front of the stage.  Cellos, violins, banjos, harmonicas, and bass drums sat among the traditional band instruments.  There was barely enough room on stage for the drummer to get behind the drum kit.  A very wide-eyed Fran ogled the stage as guitarist, Zang, approached, rocking a three-quarter length fur coat.  Throwing off the coat before the start of the set revealed a 70’s era marching band jacket.  Buckle up Fran, you are in over your head.

Zambricki Li, Master of All.

Magic Giant hit the stage like an explosion. Over the next eight-song set, band members jumped, danced, bounced off of each other, dove into the crowd, balanced on railings, and got on the floor with the audience.  I wasn’t sure where to look as the concert became larger than life around me. Multi-instrumentalist Zambricki Li played so dynamically and intensely that it was difficult to remove my eyes from him. His musical superpowers were acquired as a teen when he was hit by a car and was rendered comatose.  When he awoke, he was diagnosed with Acquired Savant Syndrome, enabling him to learn to play the violin in four days.  He played as if he might wake up one day and never be able to play again.

Austin, the lead singer, was feeding off the energy of the crowd.  We were his “Vitamin C,” as he put it.  The audience was in a mass frenzy, as if being purged of their sins, when Austin promised us if we could be silent, the band would play a song acoustically.  Only after silence fell upon Philadelphia in a way that predated settlement of the Americas did he oblige. They parted the floor and stood in the center of the crowd and played so sweetly that all one could do was smile. Zang played with every ounce of his body as the music flowed from his guitar.  Their sound was organic and fresh.  These days you can’t even say the word banjo without being typecast in the modern alternative music world.  Magic Giant’s music was a culmination of many different genres. Country fiddles, hip-hop beats, and singer-songwriter sensibilities created something meaningful and new. The right instrument for the right song fathered a unique sound that belonged solely to them.

Hey Zang, turn it on its side and it’s a bass. Cello!

The band left absolutely nothing on the table when it was time for them to leave the stage.  Instantly, chants for “One more song” bellowed from the floor.  The volume rivaled that of the band.  I couldn’t help but to chant, too.  I shook my head in disbelief.  Looking around, I made eye contact with every random stranger wondering if they just witnessed the same thing I had seen.  I-told-you-so looks came from friends that had already been converted.  This is a magical time in the band’s career.  Do yourself a favor and see them while you still have the opportunity in a small venue. When it’s over, just remember – I told you so.

Stream the debut album, In the Wind, by Magic Giant on Spotify and Apple Music or buy it here. See them on tour this fall in a city near you.

Date                Venue                                                   Location

Oct 17               The Underground                               Charlotte, NC

Oct 19               The Loft                                                Atlanta, GA

Oct 20              The Parish @ House of Blues           New Orleans, LA

Oct 21               House of Blues Bronze Peacock      Houston, TX

Oct 22               Antone’s                                               Austin, TX

Oct 23               The Lowbrow Palace                         El Paso, TX

Oct 25               Crescent Ballroom                             Phoenix, AZ

Oct 26               The Regent                                          Los Angeles, CA

Nov 03              Live in the Vineyard                          Napa, CA

Nov 14              The Center for the Arts                     Grass Valley, CA

Nov 15              The Catalyst                                         Santa Cruz, CA

Nov 18              Folk ‘N’ Fruit Fest                              Safety Harbor, FL

Dec 02              97X Next Big Thing                           Tampa, FL

  • Claudia DeCastro

    That feeling you got after this show, was the same exact feeling I got when I first saw them on 10/11. I wanted to go to the show because of Atlas genius and fell hard for Magic Giant. Your words describe them as I would have if I could write like you. Beautiful article and photos

    • Fran Chismar

      Thank you so much Claudia.