“Our mission is to move bodies and souls."
“Our mission is to move bodies and souls."
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Magic Giant Brings West Coast Vibes to Miami Beach

When you go to summer camp as an adult, it’s already pretty clear that you’ve refused to grow up. So naturally, you’ve got to have theme music to accompany your fairytale life. That’s where Magic Giant comes in.

For the past two summers, Magic Giant has played private concerts for the 21-and-up adult sleep-away camp known as Camp No Counselors, which has locations in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Chicago. Having recently attended for the first time this October, I was privy to one of these majestic shows at Canyon Creek Summer Camp in California.

Magic Giant connects with its audience in a way that is rare, overwhelming, and refreshing in world of social-media extroverts but real-world introverts.

“Our mission is to move bodies and souls, and we are excited by group experiences,” says frontman Austin Bis.

Bis, along with Zambricki Li, who plays banjo and fiddle, and Brian Zaghi on upright bass and acoustic guitar, got together only a year and a half ago, but the three play like old friends. “Zambricki and I met in 2012, and then Brian and Ian [Meltzer] — who plays drums with us — have known each other since middle school, so then we just joined forces 18 months ago and played our first show,” says Bis. That first show took place at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles and went just about as well as any of them could have hoped. “Sold out. Line up the street. The guys that presented it said it’s never happened since.”

And Magic Giant hasn't stopped since either. The trio just finished a summer tour, entertained a summer camp full of rowdy adults, then immediately hopped over to RiSE Lantern Festival, where more than 10,000 people were in attendance. The band has managed to create an atmosphere at its shows that touches large and small crowds alike, but they don’t really have a size preference, according to Bis. “They both serve a very different purpose," he says. "One is we can get very intimate with our crowd and just totally interact one-on-one immediately with the people. And the rest is the feeling of moving a whole sea of people.” 

Magic Giant even began recording a music video at RiSE for the band's new single, "Set on Fire,"  which had its release party on October 21 in West Hollywood, California. Ever true to the folk-pop style, “Set on Fire” is another commanding anthem by a band becoming known for such songs. “Man, it felt so good at the Troubadour with everyone singing the end of ‘Set on Fire’ with us. It’s just, like, the bigger the better."

“Set on Fire” opens with echoing, warped banjo riffs that shift into an upbeat melody juxtaposed with distressed lyrics. It questions: “Which one of us set on fire?/‘Cause we both went up in smoke.

“I like to think of it as, ‘It doesn’t matter who’s to blame. We’re in this together,’” Bis says.

Though Magic Giant’s sound is far removed from the American folk-revival heyday of the '50s and '60s, the band is slowly carving its place in the return of mainstream folk, a genre that's catapulted many bands — Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers — to the top of the charts. 

“It’s really amazing that people are listening to the old folk musicians," Bis says. "It’s really sweet that people kind of know the source material... That’s what we love to do. We love all that old music and to be able to bring our take on it. It’s just really cool that people are turned onto it a little bit.”

Magic Giant, 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 11, at Soho Beach House. Private, members-only event.

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