For a man of such stature and, even moreso, such talent, Flying Lotus sure likes to be humble. The electronic producer and musician announced in July that he would be playing the Paradise Rock Club in support of his new album, You’re Dead! — the same venue he played when touring behind his 2012 album, Until The Quiet Comes. It goes without saying the show sold out less than a month later. Flying Lotus is armed with a rapidly growing fan base, a back catalog of creative LPs, and collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Erykah Badu, yet he seems to think he’s still midway on the totem pole of popularity. So yeah, Flying Lotus should have been playing The Royale, but we’re oh so happy he got intimate at the Paradise instead.
Following DJ sets from J.P.S. and PBDY, Thundercat–half bass prodigy, half utter goon–stepped out in a wolf skin hat, battered poncho, and about three layers of sweatpants. “I changed my socks today!” he exclaimed amidst a flurry of cheers, pointing to neon yellow socks stuffed in medical sandals. As such an integral part of the new album, it only made sense for him to open. His fingers danced along the fretboard of a six-string bass and let musical confetti shoot out of beautiful velvet red and cream amps. Despite his role as the joking best friend, Thundercat proved his talent is right up there alongside Flying Lotus’. His short set showed off a classical prowess while closer “Oh Sheit, It’s X” let teens dance to his R&B party track.
Flying Lotus, like Thundercat, is proof that the easiest way to be cool is to be good at what you do. As someone who is touring behind an extensive concept album about death and the afterlife, he’s got a lot on his shoulders. The initial disparaging words critics shot out about the authenticity and clarity of his songs have fallen flat. Flying Lotus has long been an artist whose music exceeds when paired with visuals. Touring is his way of giving people that full experience.
“Thank God it’s Friday. None of us have to work or go to school or any of that shit tomorrow,” he said, greeting the crowd in a freshly pressed suit and flashing his full-toothed smile. He lowered a pair of Amelia Earhart goggles over his eyes and laughed quietly. “But that doesn’t really matter… ’cause you’re dead.” Then the room went pitch black.
The moment his goggles lit up and the first excited shriek hit the air, his show became an otherworldly adventure. This was a funeral. Mesh screens sandwiched the stage, holding him captive in between, while various projections were shot onto them to give the illusion of an immerseive 3D experience. Purple tunnels would explode into oblong geometric shapes during “Coronus, the Terminator” and spirals of green would burst into kaleidoscopic images during “Never Catch Me”. We were going face first into a place without gravity, and it wasn’t clear if things were grim or jovial.
The few times Flying Lots broke character was to let his alter-ego, rapper Captain Murphy, come to life. He removed the glowing goggles and stepped around the screen to the edge of the stage, twisting his face while spitting out words, a stark contrast to the soft shape of his beats. He worked his way through “The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep” and “Between Friends”, not missing a single word, while the crowd squashed themselves against the stage for a chance to shake his hand. It was a blend of vexation with seduction; no one could look away. After he returned to his visual casket behind the screen, though, he thanked the crowd, took a swig of rum, and exited, leaving us all wondering if the afterlife is really that bad, after all.
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