Home / Music / Concert Reviews / Flying Lotus w/ Thundercat and Teebs @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Flying Lotus w/ Thundercat and Teebs @ Turner Hall Ballroom

May 17, 2013

May. 20, 2013
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Photo credit: Melissa Miller
It’s rather hard to define the music of Flying Lotus in terms of genre. There are basically two reasons for that. The first, and most broad, is that while there’s no shortage of practitioners of the kind of post-rave, post-hip-hop mix of breaks, samples and blunted boom-bap that FlyLo specializes in, from headliners to anonymous bedroom producers, there’s not really a proper name for it, save for woefully inadequate descriptors like chillwave or, perhaps the most toothless term in music, electronica. The second, and most important, is that Flying Lotus (aka Captain Murphy, aka Steven Ellison) keeps most of his competitors in a crowded field squarely in his rearview mirror, blending classic sampladelic tropes with dance floor-friendly tempos and, particularly on 2012’s stellar Until the Quiet Comes, a hefty dose of acid jazz, making him one of the brightest artists on Warp Records’ jam packed roster. That’s a lot to live up to, but Friday night Flying Lotus did so and then some.

There was also a good bit of hype surrounding Friday’s pair of openers, Teebs and Thundercat. The former, an up-and-coming California artist, represented the more beat-happy end of the knob-twiddling spectrum pretty well, impressing an expectant audience, and the latter, an accomplished bass player named Stephen Bruner, performed as the leader of a trio which recalled the more cosmic side of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, but occasionally got a little too noodly for its own good. Both, however, due to circumstances beyond their control, gave off the distinct impression that their recordings are more interesting than their appearances here; Thundercat because of an uneven, unpredictable mix, and Teebs because it can be hard to make playing samplers and such visually interesting. That is, unless you have the resources of Flying Lotus, who brought along an incredibly elaborate and overwhelming onslaught of lights and projections, making the Turner Hall Ballroom feel like something out of a sci-fi flick.

Sandwiched between two separate screens, with complementary visuals flashing across each, Flying Lotus appeared as little more than a silhouette at the heart of a swirling, three-dimensional vortex of color and geometry. At times it looked like a futuristic computer interface, with FlyLo moving elements this way or that with a wave of his hand, all perfectly in sync with the music, which here naturally leaned more towards epic soundscapes, hyped-up breaks and buzzy dubstep as opposed to his more atmospheric efforts. Even on the albums, where tracks flow into each other like water, it’s hard to keep track of which song is which, and Friday was no different, as he masterfully transitioned between textures and tempos, constantly keeping the electrified audience on its toes. The only times the show lost some momentum was when he occasionally emerged from his unreal space to go out front and rap. He’s not a bad MC, but before stepping out from behind the curtain, he was the Wizard of Oz.


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