Flying Lotus – Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ 11/11/14 (SHOW REVIEW)

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Entering the Marquee, an energetic crowd was packed up against the stage and filling about half of the whole area at 8pm, while around and behind the sound booth, people milled around talking. There was a DJ downstage right, behind a laptop, promoting his song choices with wild gestures and dancing more to his chosen tracks than anyone in the building, but when he played David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” – the crowd took notice and audibly sang along. Flying Lotus welcomed this DJ back to the stage at the end of the night, but the reception for him was mediocre, perhaps he should have chosen someone with real mixing skills in place of this self-hyping song selector.

Thundercat took the stage after “Space Oddity” and Thundercat truly IS a space oddity, you need only search for Thundercat’s “Tron Song” on Youtube and you’ll see some cosmically weird things. Stephen Bruner, the artist known simply as Thundercat, asked the crowd “Do you like my jacket?” and when everyone “woo”-ed out their approval he said “I do too.” And though Bruner brought a keyboard player and a drummer to join him onstage to play his jazzy harmonies that wander (seemingly aimlessly at times) in minor keys, his falsetto vocals are the very definition of Thundercat’s mellow sound. The huge bass guitar worn high on his chest was mesmerizing and watching the neck swaying back and forth, one had to wonder if Flying Lotus might join in on the track ‘Mmmhmmm’.  He did not – but Thundercat’s rendition of that song was a highlight, it sounded perfect. It would have been nice to see some images projected during their set from their many strange videos instead of just the stage lighting rotating through magenta, purple and blue, but overall – they were a nicely chill opener for the madness that was about to happen.

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Flying Lotus popped onto the front of the stage with a personal greeting spoken with plodding authority, that referenced his show at Club Red in a few years ago: ‘I feel like the last time I was here, I was just an innocent young lad. It’s so nice to see you all. No more innocence.’ He informed the crowd with a lackadaisical tone: ‘Because, uh, you’re dead.’ What then ensued was a visual show that would be more expected in the world of large spectacle-style raves or dance performances where ticket prices start at 100$ and go up from there. There was a scrim (transparent curtain) at the front of the stage and another scrim about 15 feet behind it, in between was the type of podium that any college uses for their commencement address and Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) looked rather ‘presidential’ standing at it. Projected onto the scrim (which was flanked by tall lighted poles flashing the crowd with colors), were constantly morphing psychedelic visuals… the kind of visuals that enhance a high or can literally induce one (no joke – the show started with a few minutes of hardcore flashing strobe). He rocked his set from a single laptop on the podium and donned a mask with eyes that glowed yellow for early songs. No one could take their eyes off the pulsating lightshow for even a second. Songs like “Never Catch Me”,  “Getting There”, “Empty Lungs”, “The Shinra Corporation” and “Computer Face/Pure Being” had the crowd shouting approval while the projections were sometimes gory, sometimes sacred geometry and always engaging.

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A surprisingly moving highlight from the night came near the end when he addressed the public reaction to the name and theme of his latest album You’re Dead – he said “The truth is, we never really die though.. so – fuck it! BE CONFUSED!” – which this roomful of fans shouted their approval for. At the end of his show, he pulled a nifty trick and announced he was done “after this song” – so about half the crowd left, then he came back out for a stellar encore and lots of chit-chat about what he might like to find after the show – some cool people to hang out with, a girl to flirt with, some pot – all of these things discussed while he swigged liquor out of a tall bottle. Once again, Flying Lotus proved to be an experimental genre artist of the highest caliber.

Photos by Aaron Rivers

 

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