Derek Rickert –
Belgian dubstep duo Ganja White Night, fresh off of its first major headline tour and set to co-headline the Global Dub Fest at Red Rocks in May, just a few years ago couldn’t imagine just setting foot in the States.
Dark Horse Group’s Alex Heiligman was determined to make it happen, though. “He wanted to see just if we were interested in touring in the U.S., which back in the day sounded like a dream, just to be able to get a visa,” Ganja White Night’s Ben “Bamby” Bayeul told Pollstar of the band’s Minneapolis-based co- manager. Heiligman reached out way back in 2009 as a promoter interested in a dubstep artist that performed live rather than a DJ set.
“After we connected and played Minneapolis, we thought it was the right thing to do,” Bayeul said. “After that, everything went very smoothly.”
Smoothly is about right, as the duo just sold out venues including Intersection in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Roseland Theatre in Portland on the “Origins” tour that ran February to March.
“We kind of built up enough steam to apply for a visa, and then started doing shows mostly in the Midwest, New York, and then they released Mr. Wobble, and things really took off after that,” Heiligman told Pollstar. While already recording more than a half-dozen albums by that point, the “Wobble” sound incorporating elements of dub, reggae and others resonated with EDM fans Stateside after the album’s 2016 release on their own SubCarbon Records label.
Meanwhile, dubstep hadn’t really taken off in Europe. Their concerts, with the music produced live and incorporating complex visual elements, were an instant hit. “Making groovy wobbles is probably our main force,” said Bayeul, whose role is mostly on the melody and structure parts whereas partner Charlie “Erwan” Dodson handles rhythm and technical aspects onstage.
“There’s so much more harmony and atmosphere in the music, much more importance in building a long intro leading into a certain atmosphere. That’s what makes our music maybe different than others,” he said. With that growth came the need for a booking agent, and one with experience in that realm came to mind instantly, Circle Talent Agency.
“I knew it was the right fit for them, and it was always where we were trying to be,” Heiligman said. “So naturally once we hooked up with Circle, it definitely took off for a whole new level, as far as getting in those big rooms and on good dates.”
The agency, led by Kevin Gimble and Steve Gordon, also represents major EDM clients including Excision, Kaskade, Marshmello and the recently signed Illenium. Some highlights from the “Origins” tour included additional sellouts at Limelight in Nashville (1,000 tickets) and two sold-out Washington, D.C., shows (Soundcheck and 9:30 Club), Gimble told Pollstar. Other big shows included the Tabernacle in Atlanta (1,530), Electric Factory in Philadelphia (1,450) and Royal Oak in Michigan, which sold 1,680 tickets.
Another sellout was the 2,150-capacity PlayStation Theatre in New York City, special for including attendees such as Erwan’s mom as well as Ganja White Night’s resident illustrator and animator, street artist Ebo.
While crafting artwork for the band from Belgium since its very first releases, Ebo’s work is very much a part of the live show and he got to see the fruits of his labor in person.
“For a 100-minute live set of all original music, we have Ebo feeding these incredible visuals and it’s something that really has to be dialed in,” co-manager David Liberman said. “That’s a whole other live aspect of their performance too.
This is done with our team behind consoles at front-of-house actually orchestrating the visual aspect. It allows them to make each show unique.”
That can also be a surprise to venues and promoters when the tour rolls in with road cases full of gear rather than a couple of laptops.
GWN heads back to the U.S. for festivals including Global Dub at Red Rocks in May, co-headlining with Zomboy, as well as Paradiso at The Gorge in Washington, Spring Awakening in Chicago, and Deadbeats in Toronto. They also just played Okeechobee in Florida and BUKU in New Orleans. More “Origins” dates are in the works as well, with management saying it’ll likely be in similar-sized rooms as the first leg.