Flying Lotus, Terminal 5 (Photo: Scott Heins)
Flying Lotus & Thundercat Bring 'You're Dead!' to NYC (Photos + Recap)
Flying Lotus brought his audiovisual circus to the three-tiered terrordome that is NYC's Terminal 5 for a spectacle of absurd proportions last night. Anyone who's seen the man perform from between his holographic double-veil knows damn well to expect a hallucinatory experience but with an album as fluid and (dare we say) morbid as the brilliant exposition of the afterlife that is You're Dead!, many of us were left scratching our heads, puzzling over how that might translate to his high voltage stageshow. Let's just say it was apt, in that the musical madness of the record was perfectly appropriated by all three sides of the Flylo triangle, with Captain Murphy and Steven Ellison both making appearances.
Imagine the enigmatic music man and his freaky frequencies (ranging from tactfully-implemented subterranean lows to spooked-out highs) being projected from behind a perpetually morphing curtain, bending, twisting and transforming with every subatomic bass note. He ran through a career-spanning set, but shone brightest on some of the most memorable moments from the new record.
But before all that, his kindred spirit (animal), Brainfeeder's own Thundercat, took the stage to set the wheels in motion. Appearing beneath a half a wolf’s worth of fur, Thundercat played his hollow-body 6-string bass like a tommy gun, dishing out 40 minutes of mostly frantic futuristic jazz.
Following a surprise comedic mini-set from none other than Hannibal Buress, Stephen Bruner AKA Thundercat's band hit its stride in no time with a lengthened take on “Tron Song” (alright, let’s be honest, every Thundercat track got a lengthened take last night) and peaked with the tumbling stomp of “Daylight,” which saw Thundercat amaze the room anew with his virtuosic soloing skills. The only imperfections of Thundercat’s set were logistic—the furious sound of his bass work mixed with Justin Brown’s unhinged-madman drums gave Terminal 5’s sound system a few headaches and his set had to be cut short just as “Heartbreaks and Setbacks” got rolling. Still, it was the perfect sonic prep course for the mindf*ck that would follow and his performances of “DMT Song” and You’re Dead!-highlight “Descent into Madness” pulled the crowd into FlyLo’s world before he himself set foot on stage.
When he finally appeared, sporting glowing headgear and a maniacal grin, Flying Lotus began his musical journey with a quick romp through the opening of You're Dead!, running through "Theme" at a breakneck pace before immediately turning a corner and dropping the haunting Erykah Badu vocal of "Until the Quiet Comes." That marriage of new and old(er) material is the ultimate victory of FlyLo's set: You're Dead! has already become the perfect compliment to his past work.
Minutes passed like microseconds with Ellison at the helm, and mid-set saw a jump off into some more trilled-out, trap-heavy sonics, putting those textures of the time under haunted cuts like "Descent Into Madness," the hard fusion of "Fkn Dead" and a shuffling "Siren Song." The intensity only grew as FlyLo segued out of these songs and into unheard verses from Kendrick Lamar via a version of "Eyes Above" that never made the final cut of the album, teasing us with what could have been. But in the middle of it all the quiet still came, and the perpetual float of "Turtles" and "Zodiac Shit" had sapphire waves and coasting stars calmly sweeping over the screen.
Towards the end of a performance that might have left some of in a state of sensory overload, the full sprint of "Never Catch Me" begins to chime in and set heads knocking. The future-rap tour de force--and K.dot's slicing vocals--dropped out just before the instrumental breakdown for a quick tribute and shoutout to fallen greats DJ Rashad and Ikey Owens--only to bounce back into Thundercat's virtuoso chops to close out the set. As a fitting finale, Ellison let "The Protest" play out as he leaped into the crowd, thanking the room, his close friends and everyone else that made his newest LP possible. As the refrain "I will live on, forever" cycled through the room, it was clear that at the end of all of Flying Lotus's darkness awaits a joyful light--a consciousness committed to a living life of music.
Like the album that it supports, Flying Lotus’s new live set is both fearsome and deeply beautiful. If you’re holding on to a ticket to one of this tour’s remaining shows, know that there’s nothing you can do to truly prepare yourself. It’s a 90-minute glimpse of death—and life—as you’ve never imagined it.