One of the most bonkers sets in Outside Lands history occurred on the evening of the third day in 2016, when GRiZ took over the Soundstage for a short DJ set. The bass was set to the maximum, the crowd was almost ferociously riled up, and the electro-soul and “future-funk” EDM artist tore into a dizzyingly attention-deficient half-hour of power.
GRiZ remembers it well, too, telling SF Weekly that, “I was crowdsurfing, man — during the DJ set. I was going nuts. It was like, ‘Let’s have as much fun as we possibly can. I think it was like a half-hour set.’ ”
Fast-forward barely more than a year, and GRiZ has sold out two nights at Colorado’s outdoor venue Red Rocks, one of which was solo while the other featured a 12-piece live band. He’s released a mixtape called Chasing the Golden Hour 2 and a beer with Great Divide Brewing Company that riffs on their Golden Hour Ale. And his Instagram bursts with grins and messages of uplift.
The Flaming Lips famously recorded a song called “Evil Will Prevail,” but that was the mid-’90s and this is now. Even though the world is clearly falling to shit, positivity trumps Gen X anomie any day — and 27-year-old Denver DJ, saxophonist, and electronic producer Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, continues to radiate a hazy, slightly goofy sunshine on his Good Will Continue tour, which brings him to San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 and 14.
Some of his encounters along the way have come completely by chance. Take a random run-in with Matisyahu, the vegan Jewish beatboxer who no longer wears the heavy beard he did during his more Orthodox period in the early aughts. If you don’t recognize him upon Googling him, don’t worry; neither did GRiZ.
“I was just getting coffee here in Denver and this dude — he doesn’t remember looking like I remember him looking — comes up to me and says, ‘Stop stealing my band,’ ” GRiZ says. “I’m like, ‘What? Who the fuck are you?’ But I didn’t say that. I was just like, ‘What?’ He was like, ‘I’m just kidding! This is Matisyahu.’ ”
They share a bass player, as it turns out. A planned meeting to record a song together turned into a more serious collaboration with a teased joint selfie on Instagram lighting up their mutual fan bases. But the sheer coincidence of it isn’t lost in GRiZ, who simply elaborates that Matisyahu was in Denver “seeing Phish.”
Elsewhere around the Mile-High City, the Detroit native has his fingers in a few other pies, mostly notably hawking his own strain of cannabis at a dispensary called Native Roots. They’d been pushing him to work together, and while GRiZ was initially more than a little hesitant — “I was like, ‘No, that sounds horrible. I don’t want my own strain of weed.’ Come on!” he says — he came around. He’s about to provide a tour to a lucky fan, in fact, and marvels at the sight of seeing hundreds of plants with “GRiZ Kush” on them.
Further, GRiZ came out as gay this June in a heartfelt, slightly profane message to his fans that he’d fretted over for some time, even lying to journalists who’d baited him with questions based on rumors they’d heard. In fairness, he wanted to disclose the information on his own terms beyond his immediate circle of family and friends, and it’s tough to begrudge someone that.
“I wanted an honest letter that was exactly how I felt,” he says. “And I literally just sat down and wrote what exactly came into my head and sent it to my manager, who was like, ‘Except for using the word fuck like six times, we’re good. We’re just going to run with this.’ ”
Being rooted in the alternative music world in 2017, there was little risk of career-derailing blowback, but GRiZ nonetheless marvels at the positive reception. Declining to drop the names of peers who’d contacted him with supportive messages, he does admit that he’s become friends with Daniel Franzese (of Mean Girls and Looking fame) and his fiancé, hanging out with them whenever he’s in L.A.
In the same coming-out letter, GRiZ talks about how being gay wasn’t cool when he was in high school — and neither was playing the sax or being a fan of Britney Spears. One could, at this juncture, lay out a compelling case for GRiZ’s coolness, but upon hearing that, he pours out a stream of self-criticism about the years he’d wasted chasing other people’s version of what he thought he should be.
“In high school, I needed to drink alcohol and smoke weed and sell weed and listen to rap music and all this shit,” he says. “Man, I’m living my life on somebody else’s terms. What people decided they think is cool isn’t even cool.
“It was just oppression, fear, and comparison — and that was so negative,” he adds. “The opposite of good art and good feelings. I’m thinking of love, happiness, compassion, and empathy — connecting with people.”
So now that he’s put all that behind him, has he approached Britney Spears about performing together, or maybe just hanging out? As it turns out, no — although she used to hang out in an all-girl “Brat Pack” with Lindsay Lohan. And beyond knowing Franzese, another friend of GRiZ happens to be Lindsay Lohan’s manager.
“So I’m close!” GRiZ says. “Man, I just want to hang out with her and be like, ‘Yo. Tell me everything.”
GRiZ, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13-14, 8 p.m., at the Warfield, 982 Market St. $37.50-$50; thewarfieldtheatre.com