Martin Garrix bringing EDM extravaganza to Belly Up Aspen
As a kid in Holland, Martin Garrix watched on TV as Tiesto performed at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The sight changed his life.
“That was my first encounter with electronic music and I was hooked,” Garrix, who headlines Belly Up on Thursday, said winter before his Aspen debut at X Games. “I started playing around with music in my room, playing at small parties and organizing my own parties in my hometown at some point. That’s how everything started.”
After seeing Tiesto, the 8-year-old downloaded some DJ software and got to work. By the time he was 17, he was in his bedroom crafting “Animals,” the breakout track that would make him world famous. A pounding, party-starter of a trance composition in the European tradition, “Animals” went double-platinum and soon topped more than 1 billion YouTube views.
Garrix, now 22, never expected it to be one of the most-heard songs on Earth.
“I made that track in my old bedroom and never thought that in the end so many people would be listening to it,” Garrix said.
Since that introduction to the world, things have only gone upward for Garrix. He soon found himself working with Dillon Francis and Afrojack and his hero Tiesto. He’s collaborated with vocalists on infectious, inescapable tracks like “In the Name of Love” with Bebe Rexha and “Scared to be Lonely” with Dua Lipa. He’s collaborated with pop musicians like Usher and Ed Sheeran, toured with Justin Bieber, and played with The Roots on “The Tonight Show.” At age 20 he was voted DJ Mag’s top-ranked DJ in the world. He has a DJ residency in Ibiza and his own record label, STMPD. All that and his baby-faced looks and easy smile made him the face of Armani Exchange in 2017, so now he has a modeling career to fall back on if this DJ thing fizzles out.
“I never expected everything to be like this when I started,” he said of the runaway global fame he’s earned. “I just wanted to make music. It was hard to often be away from my family and friends because of touring, especially in the beginning when I wasn’t able to fly them over.”
In his Aspen debut at X Games, Garrix orchestrated an extravaganza of sound and fury. He had smoke machines and pyrotechnics and laser lights. He had two overlaid video screens, showing selfie-style closeups of him at work on his DJ console. He had fireworks exploding from the top of the stage, coordinated with his biggest bass drops.
Musically, he doled out remixed versions of his biggest hits throughout the show, playing the soaring “Now That I’ve Found You” and “Animals” early on andHe closed with successive spins of his poppiest offerings “So Far Away,” “Waiting for Love,” the instrumental “Pizza” and “Scared to be Lonely.”
Some hardcore EDM fans may scoff at his stratospheric stardom or his frequent forays into pop music working with the likes of Bieber. But Garrix focuses on the creative side of things, he said, and doesn’t worry about factions of fans or genre purists.
“I won’t say that I focus on a specific territory,” he said. “It’s just that I want to make music based on my ideas and creativity at that moment when I’m in the studio. I don’t want to limit that process by thinking about genres.”
An avid snowboarder, Garrix fit right in with Aspen. Belly Up’s intimate nightclub setting is a rare treat for Garrix, who regularly headlines arenas and festival where crowds top 100,000. When he has cozy club setting, he said, he likes to play around with pacing – slowing things down a bit between the crescendos and following the crowd’s energy.
“I do prepare lists of music that I think will be cool to play,” he said, “but it’s always a surprise what I’m going to use when on stage. I adapt this to the vibe I’m getting from the crowd.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.