The lines streaming in both directions from the Echoplex on Friday and Saturday made visual what had been the word around town for a while now: LA Weekly cover guy Flying Lotus was this weekend's hot ticket.
Friday night the packed Echo Park venue (we'll stop calling it “Eastside” lest our own Denis Romero and a bunch of people with impenetrable, squiggly calligraphy rip us a new one) witnessed a more traditional presentation of breakthrough album Cosmogramma, with Flying Lotus in full laptop jockey mode, blissfully smiling under the mystical projections designed by Dr. Strangloop.
But it was the Saturday gig that sounded most intriguing when announced: the unveiling of Infinity, a live band Lotus had gathered to breathe some improvisational spirit into the studio complexities of the album.
It was a long evening (Infinity didn't take the stage until 12:30) with a very large captive audience (the Echoplex really needs to revise its “no ins and outs” policy if a show is gonna go from 9ish till closing…) and many changes of pace and mood.
The Los Angeles beats scene in full came to support the man of the hour.
A constant, recurring projection reiterated the “cosmic” theme, from the stage, to a live on-the-spot painting, to the bespoke t-shirt machine available for fans.
Flying Lotus had some stellar openers, with many heavy-hitters from the Low End Theory/Brainfeeder/Mochilla axis representing. Matthewdavid and Eric Coleman gave way to the Gaslamp Killer, who then brought in psychedelic shaman Gonjasufi.
Performances were dedicated to the recently arrested DJ Kutmah, with Gonjasufi expanding the critique of immigration policies to the Arizona situation with a passionate spiel.
Gaslamp and Gonjasufi kept things contemporary and beats-intensive (even if Gonjasufi does sing in his own rasta-blues fashion and even inspired a little singalong), but before Flying Lotus, the stage was set by his cousin Ravi Coltrane, who enlightened the very mixed, large crowd with a set of straight-ahead jazz. It was a fitting intro to Cosmogramma, which tries to find the elusive middle ground between the Coltrane family tradition and the new beats scene.
And then it was time for the headliner, beaming with happiness and leading his orchestra through his most recent labor of love. Flying Lotus has several high-profile gigs coming up, and given that he's moving in the rarefied circles of M.I.A., Thom Yorke, Beck, etc., it seems likely that this unveiling of the Infinity band is a harbinger of his future shows, expanding on the guy-and-laptop setup of Friday.
If so, even at a strangely populated Echoplex (several people seemed puzzled by the spiritual jazz inflections of Flying Lotus' new material) the inventive beatmaker proved that he's ready to do his tradition-meets-experimentation thing at many different kinds of venues and festivals.
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