Concert Review: Flying Lotus, Thundercat, PBDY, + JPS @ The Danforth Music Hall – Toronto

I’ve been following Steven Ellison’s (aka. Flying Lotus) music career for a long time. When
Los Angeles came out in 2008, I became infatuated with the glitchy, bizarre, jazz-infused insanity of the album. About a year later I got to see him live and again I was blown away. I couldn’t believe the amount of stage presence from a man standing behind a table twisting knobs and pushing buttons (he looked like he was flying a spaceship), making the crowd interested not only in the music but also in what was going on on the stage. As far as I’m concerned, this guy is the real deal and as you could imagine I was pretty excited to cover this show.

Though they weren’t announced beforehand, the show had several openers the first two we’re called Dirty P and JPS respectively and had a similar feel to them. Both played decent sounding dj sets.

Thundercat (a bassist,singer/songwriter and regular collaborator of FL’s) played next and was anything but forgettable. Dressed like he was auditioning for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band with black clad backing musicians, he played a mix of funk music and experimental noise that would make John Cage wet his pants. Swinging between the two extremes while floating Curtis Mayfield style falsetto on top made for a sonically confusing (at times) but extremely enjoyable set.

Walking into the Danforth Music Hall that night, the first thing that grabbed your attention was the massive, angled screen taking up most of the stage and while it definitely made life more difficult for the openers, but it made life more interesting for the rest of us. The lights went down and Flying Lotus came onstage in near darkness walking to a lit podium that appeared behind the screen. He picked up a microphone and said “I think we’re ready to go here. I regret to inform you all……You’re dead”. As he finished talking the words YOU’RE DEAD flashed onto the screen in huge black letters and the full scale onslaught began. The bass kicked off at full blast shaking its way through everyone as images flashed on screens both in front and behind the podium where Flying Lotus directed everything like a politician from a George Orwell novel. He even dressed the part in a blue business suit, white shirt, crimson tie, and a mask with glowing orange eyes that covered everything but his mouth. FL himself was all over the place — the podium, talking to the audience, rapping over some tracks at the front of the stage, and bringing Thundercat (now dressed in a fox fur headdress) back onto the stage to jam without ever breaking the flow of the show. What had started on the slow side built into the concert version Natural Born Killers. I left dazed but satisfied with a slight ringing in my ear. I can’t wait to see where Flying Lotus goes next.

Follow updates from Flying Lotus here.

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Review by Tristan Johnston

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