Last night was one for the books, ladies and gents. Beneath Irving Plaza‘s disco-ball-chandelier combo, Thundercat and a motley posse of Brainfeeders toasted to a new album with a cosmic ritual that matched just about any late-night-superstar-gathering at The Comedy Cellar on record.
Accompanied by Justin Brown on drums and Dennis Hamm on keys, Cat was only piece to a pride that would eventually bloom to mythical proportions by the time the smoke settled. Running through selections from his batty and brilliant new album Drunk, the bass sage blazed through standouts like “A Fan’s Mail” (yet another ecstatic ode to his cat, Tron), the slow-burn Flying Lotus-collaboration, “Jethro,” and the new dance-floor favorite,”Friend Zone,” dotting the set with more seasoned cuts like “Them Changes,” “Lotus and Jondy” and “Heartbreaks + Setbacks.” Now three full-lengths into his career (and basically two entire albums with both Kendrick Lamar and FlyLo respectively) the behind-the-scenes-bass-gawd-turned-front-and-center-force has no shortage of hits to pick from, and made sure to enlist the full regalia for an elbow-to-elbow night tucked away in as side street by Union Square.
The view from up top was a sight to behold. I mean you could tell it was tight on the ground-floor upon arrival, but the scale, packed from the entrance to the bar hugging the exit, wasn’t clear until I decided to duck an unguarded rope and make way to the risers stage right. The trio packed each song with weird veers and intricate improvisations, ensuring the crowd was hearing and seeing each song like it will never played again. As the night went on, new faces would emerge from the curtain behind Brown; Robert Glasper and his son, FlyLo, Rashad Smith, Drunk art director and Brainfeeder comedienne, Zack Fox (aka BootyMath) and finally, the great unicorn of comedy himself, Dave Chappelle. By the time Chappelle hit the stage (following a heart-felt bid of gratitude from the Brainfeeder chief) we were already won, no question about it. Chappelle entered the room to a wall-shaking legion that had already put enough in the air to question whether what they were seeing was reality or just hopeful projection. He’d praise the bass man as Glasper propped himself up behind the skins, prompting a short return for the pianist as drummer to Cat and Chappelle’s two-man show, eventually dissolving into an improvised finale. The crowd reduced to a pool of over-swelled hearts.
As we dispersed onto 15th St. and Irving Place, Glasper and his son were hailing a cab. The pianist, downplaying his spell, claimed he “had no idea” he’d have any part in the evening. Had we known the night would crystallize into raw magic, perhaps a drink or two would have been forgone. Just to be sure it actually happened.