This past weekend saw a lot of big music events happening in the Southern California area. It’s that mid-October surprise when the masses of music greats come together and perform before the looming winter arrives and there is considerably much less of it around (though SoCal can hardly be called an area with seasons).

Of these events, one of the most anticipated was having Brainfeeder’s founder and LA’s electronic golden boy Flying Lotus officially premiere his 3D tour (it technically debuted for the first time at this year’s FYF Fest) as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles. Along with the bass maestro and labelmate Thundercat and some comedy bits from the great Hannibal Buress, the night of artists who made 2014’s You’re Dead! and purveyors of that imagery performing on the Fairbanks Lawn of Hollywood Forever Cemetery sounded like the best and most conceptual mashup music and visuals since I don’t know when – and it pretty much was.

All photos by David Fisch

Though Thundercat and Flying Lotus didn’t need anymore hype than it had going into the venue, having Hannibal Buress do some comedy bits beforehand and in between sets was a nice gesture. All three have appeared on The Eric Andre Show and on Adult Swim in one form or another, so to see them all on the same line-up was a little nod to their companionship. Though it often felt like Hannibal’s set was improvised (the first few minutes of his set started without any spotlight and chatted about death – in a cemetery), he had pre-recorded bits that were obviously intentional, and they were indeed very comical and livened up the crowd (and potentially the buried).

Thundercat emerged from the darkness with his six-string bass and a red LA cap on as the official Thundercat logo appeared on screen. He started the set with the beginning tracks off of his new release Drunk, with certain tracks receiving expanded jamming like “Uh Uh” or some additional audience participation like on “Tokyo” that you can only get from a live experience. You could easily lose yourself in the prog, and his soft vocals and supporting band made it even easier. It was a little unfortunate that we did not get to witness Thundercat perform the hit new single “Show You The Way,” though any chance of seeing it performed correctly with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald was likely just a fever dream.

He also played “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” and “Oh Sheit It’s X” from 2013’s Apocalypse, and though LA’s Kendrick Lamar didn’t appear for the set, it was surprising to hear Thundercat respectfully play his portions of “These Walls” and “Complexion” from To Pimp A Butterfly. Compared to the following act (Flying Lotus), Thundercat’s set was visually plain, but the music spoke for itself. He continually acknowledged how humbled he was to be back in his hometown, and the audience was more than receptive of that.

The biggest draw of the night, however, was Flying Lotus and his 3D show, which drew people giddy as they were handed special 3D glasses upon entering the Cemetery. The stage was smokey though rather empty, with the exception of a large podium that looked like something out of a horror film about an amorphous blob. This was going to be something weird, though mostly expected, considering the imagery that Flying Lotus has placed in his album art, music videos, and his recent directorial debut, Kuso.

The screen announced to everyone to place on their 3D glasses, and from there it was a trip; vortexes and skeletons and geometric shapes and jellyfish and children with axes chopping off people’s heads appeared in astoundingly good 3D, even from a distance. Billowing smoke machine smoke, strobe lights, and laser lights really gave certain effects a greater depth. Flying Lotus later expressed his dismay at not being able to see the effects along with us.

He mixed and blended a number of his songs from his catalog from behind that podium, including tracks of Thundercat’s and Kendrick Lamar’s. He hopped on the mic for tracks that included his other hip hop alias Captain Murphy, and there was also some of his friend’s work in there from artists like Shabazz Palaces and Gaslamp Killer, an artist who’s recent sexual assault allegations would be weirdly and vaguely brought up at the end of the set as Flying Lotus (stated at the end as his real name Steve) talked to the audience about justice and the truth.

With the exception of that head-scratching moment, the set was simply impressive, and the 3D aspect drew you into the twisted fantasia that lives in the electronic artist’s mind. Any fan of Flying Lotus would be hard-pressed not to find a reason to see this show on tour, even if the music material was mostly work of his that have been around for some years now.

You’re Dead! and Drunk are available now on Brainfeeder. Check out the music video of “MmmHmm” below.

For more info:
Flying Lotus
Red Bull Music Academy Los Angeles