Flying Lotus

The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, October 21

Flying LotusThe Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, October 21
Photo: Geoff Fitzgerald
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As a friend, label-mate, collaborator, and sometimes muse to Flying Lotus, it was no surprise that Thundercat was on the bill for this show. While he could've merely accompanied Flying Lotus on bass for a few tracks and still fulfilled his role, Thundercat instead emerged with a drummer and a keyboardist to open the show. The understated three-piece quickly warmed the crowd with sweet, sensual solos from each instrument, as they ran through a handful of soulful tunes.

Thundercat floated amongst high octaves and lightning-fast bass work, which was sometimes hectic and a little jarring, but not surprising considering that this was well on its way to becoming a free jazz performance. Judging by the smiles on each band members' faces as one of them would embark on a flurry of solos, it seemed that a lot of the set was improvised. Improv or no, they cooled things off with "Oh Sheit, It's X!," which was undeniably smooth. It was a funky ending from a support act that gave no indication of the madness that was to come.

Throughout the opening acts, an extremely hard to ignore, pristine cube dominated the stage. In the centre of this monolith stood an equipment desk from which it was clear Flying Lotus was going to perform — so before the proceedings had even begun, it seemed evident that this was going to be an epic show, and it was nothing short of that. The music preceding FlyLo's entrance gave the impression that the crowd was about to receive nothing less than an intergalactic hero. When he did arrive and the jaw-dropping visuals began to form, the grandiose entrance was completely justified.

He jumped straight into the frantic jazz stylings of "Tesla," giving the impression that this was going to be a performance of his latest album, You're Dead. Instead, he carved a grimy pathway with glitched-out beats and off-kilter melodies. He dug deep into his catalogue, not pandering an inch. It quickly became clear that this was a beat lovers gig. Whether or not you were a fan of FlyLo was irrelevant — it was as much a rhythmic playground as a run through recorded material.

This initial section also sucked the audience in with a set of visual displays that easily rivalled Amon Tobin's ISAM setup. The visuals were so mind-blowing, in fact, that the audio was less a focus than a complementary part of the show. Everyone was taken on a high-def journey through space, time, anatomy and worlds beyond. This of course suited Flying Lotus, who is by no means modest, as he revelled in his position at the centre of the universe. As he continued to pound out angelic spacey beats from the depths of opacity, some familiar faces did begin to emerge. Both "Breath . Something/Stellar Star" and "Camel" from Los Angeles made an appearance, but even they were warped almost beyond recognition.

It was around this time that FlyLo steered the show towards hip-hop. He dropped Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Earl Sweatshirt, to name a few, even throwing on his Captain Murphy guise and leaving the safety of his cube to spit live at the front of the stage for "Mighty Morphin Foreskin." Unfortunately, this didn't create the uproar he'd hoped for and he begrudgingly returned to his box of tricks. All was soon forgotten, though, as Thundercat returned to the stage adorned in a full headdress to jam out the last 15 minutes of the show. Bass solos were of course to be expected but the speed at which they were played was unbelievable.

At times the duet was more reminiscent of a Squarepusher show than anything on the Brainfeeder imprint. As the duo fizzled down and said their goodbyes, the crowd were left with the words "You're Dead!" flashing on screen — ironic really, seeing as the energetic show probably left people feeling more alive than ever.

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