Thundercat, Moses Sumney, & Jonwayne
The Echoplex sold out last night, on the basis of a button hammering beat junkie turned rapper, a soulful singer/songwriter, and a virtuosic electric bassist. The message here: Don't take L.A.'s inimitable musical eclecticism for granted.
Stones Throw's Jonwayne kicked things off. Despite the fact that he released an outstanding hip-hop album just a couple months ago (Rap Album One), Wayne didn't rhyme once. Instead, his set was comprised of boom-bap beats. It wasn't exactly what you might hear from him at the more electronically inclined Low End Theory (where Wayne first cut his teeth as a live performer), but it was banging nonetheless.
Neck craned, with his mane masking his bobbing and bespectacled face, Wayne performed for just over thirty minutes. When his set ended, Wayne raised his glass and walked off stage without a word. The head-nodders nodded their heads in approval.
Next, L.A. Weekly intern-cum-meteorically-rising singer/songwriter Moses Sumney took the stage. Our bias is obvious, but we still think his performance spellbinding.
With his red guitar glimmering under the dim Echoplex lights, Sumney plucked the strings sparingly. At times, it was almost as if the silence between chords carried as much weight as the chords themselves. Throughout, his soft and soulful croon rose and fall with calculated control and airy abandon.
Surprisingly comfortable on stage for a relatively new performer, Sumney had no problem interacting with the crowd, before performing his poignant, beautiful song "Alchemy." Towards the end, he playfully commanded capable audience members to harmonize with him.
Our favorite part was Sumney's use of the loop pedal, particularly during his cover of Majical Cloudz's "Childhood's End." He composed each layer of the beat with his vocals (beat boxing and scatting) and his body (clapping and snapping). In doing so, his cover did what the best covers should do: reimagine and add to the original.
For Thundercat, fellow Brainfeeder artist The Gaslamp Killer provided a characteristically hyped introduction, listing some of the accolades of Thundercat's 2013 album Apocalypse.
Aside from his massive bass, there was Thundercat's long and lustrous wig, which looked like Chapelle's Show leftovers from their Rick James and Prince sketches. Yet the wig didn't distract from the proceedings.
With accompaniment on drums and keys, Thundercat's trio was more Charles Mingus than Bootsy Collins. There were a number of excursions into '60s hard bop jazz territory, and a patch where jazz met the psychedelic and things got incredibly dark. It may not have worked for everyone, but it worked for us.
Still, for a record with a running time of just under 40 minutes, Thundercat stretched some of the material on Apocalypse far too thin. Instead of maintaining the tight, focused grooves of the recordings, there were solos and extended jams included with nearly every song. And, more often than not, Thundercat dangerously straddled the line between technical virtuosity and solipsistic self-indulgence. That said, the mellow groove of "Lotus and the Jondy" stayed intact, and the flourishes were kept to a minimum on the glitchy ballad "Heartbreaks + Setbacks."
Thundercat closed with the undeniably funky dance floor burner "O Sheit it's X," which Rolling Stone recently ranked #29 on their "100 Best Songs of 2013" list. When Thundercat sang the words "I just want to party," many of us identified.
At the end of the day, even if a good portion of the performance was somewhat unapproachable for most, there's no denying that Thundercat slaps the bass like no other, and Apocalypse will be on innumerable year-end lists.
Gaslamp Killer bounded back on stage to articulate what all those who've listened to Apocalypse have undoubtedly thought: "God bless you Thundercat -- you are a magical creature."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!