Brainfeeder at the Bowl (Flying Lotus, George Clinton and Thundercat)
September 17, 2016
The full moon hung over the tips of the pine trees creating a majestic atmosphere for Brainfeeder to take over the Hollywood Bowl last Saturday night. Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus' record label, boasts a roster of music's edgiest performers in the beat, jazz, funk and experimental scenes. Between Thundercat, the Gaslamp Killer and FlyLo, the show was an epic throwdown of Los Angeles natives showing their city what they've got. And, man, did LA eat it up.
The Gaslamp Killer was the first to spin last Saturday night. Per usual, he hunched and bobbed over his turn tables, like a mad scientist concocting elixirs and potions. His movements, exaggerated by his poofy, curly-fro hair, made his quirky jolts of energy easily felt by the crowd. Similar to the way one would mediate a panel discussion, Gaslamp was the musical mediator of the evening. He performed in between every set of the night, preventing any awkward silence during the downtime. He opened up the night with a 15 minute mini-set before Seattle's Shabazz Palaces brought their hip-hop beats to the stage.
After Shabazz performed, Gaslamp took over again and warmed up the crowd before Thundercat melted the Bowl with a soulful jazz fusion. He stood at the front of the stage and serenaded those in attendence with his dazzling double-bass guitar. It was easy to feel his passion, as his hands slid up the neck of his bass while his fingers plucked the strings. The band supporting Thundercat was also just as groovy. Toward the end of Thundercat's set Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins came out to perform “What a Fool Believes,” which had people standing up in their boxes with hands in the air swaying back and forth. Some were holding up lighters, while others were scream-singing the melody (not the words) of the song and swigging Bulleit Bourbon out of the bottle.
The performance of the night followed Thundercat's set (and another of Gaslamp Killer's musical intermissions). George Clinton performed with Funkadelic and the Parliaments, and they blew the proverbial fucking roof off the Hollywood Bowl. George Clinton is the godfather of funk, and the way he moves, sings and dresses is just as sleek and thug as any performer in their prime today. Performing grade-A jams that pioneered the funk music culture of the '70s, like “We Want the Funk,” “Atomic Dog” and “Give Up the Funk,” the Bowl was grooving harder than I've ever seen it before. The ushers were even getting funky while walking people to their seats, which is a testament to Funkadelic because I've met some pretty grumpy Bowl ushers before.
Clinton's style was on point, too. He came out rocking a beige Tommy Bahama-like fedora hat, with a silk button down shirt that had pink and blue designs on it, salmon colored pants with gator shoes. His long, floor length coat also shone in the lights the way silk does. His bright orange circular glasses were also fly as hell. His dopeness was off the charts. I want him to help me pick out my wardrobe.
Funkadelic is a nearly impossible act to follow. Not only did he have about 25 people on stage getting down throughout his entire set, he also has a top of the line band backing him up— most of whom are Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. His guitarist with long, grey dreads was pretty damn magical, too. He moved with eye catching finesse, as if he was dancing with funky woman and sweeping her off her feet. His talent is equivalent to other rock n' roll gods, like Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton. It was hard not to get lost in his heavenly guitar trance. Combined with Clinton's swag and all the guests he brought on stage, it was impossible not to move and feel the spirit of the '70s— even if the people in your box weren't feelin' the funk. But would FlyLo be able to follow the funk god and all of his glory?
Needless to say, FlyLo had monstrous shoes to fill— and he actually filled them better than expected. His visuals were nothing short of an intense acid trip. With every bassy pulse of his set, the visuals matched. At points the Hollywood Bowl vibrated so hard, it seemed like the arches over the stage might collapse. But Steven Ellison's (FlyLo) experimental beats and psychedelic 3D mazes made for stellar energy at the outdoor venue. The best part of his set came when he played the intro of “Zodiac Shit.” People hopped out of their boxes and into the walk way—wine and whiskey in hand— and thrusted around moving to the bass and hovering over the ground. The ushers asked the bass heads to move, but the bass heads ignored the ushers and offered them whiskey instead while they kept groovin'. Toward the end of Flylo's set, he grabbed the mic and said, “Shout out to Hillary, my boo. HAHAHAHA. I mean, we're kinda stuck with her, right? Hiiilllaaaarrrrryyyyyy!” A few chuckles sounded from the crowd, but the Bowl became relatively quiet as soon as he said that. Obviously, no one is stoked for the election.
Despite the comments about our dismal presidential future, FlyLo's performance was loaded with high energy equivalent to Funkadelic, but different. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Both were stellar and highlighted the musical excellence of past and present generations. My only complaint about the entire evening is that it's hard to move around at the Hollywood Bowl. Had this show been at any other venue, everyone would have gone ape shit and danced a lot harder than they did. The Bowl is divided into boxes and sections making it harder to groove, dance and flail the way one would in an open setting. Over all, though, Brainfeeder at the Bowl was an impeccable night of music under a beautiful full moon. Last Saturday night will easily go down as one of the best nights of music of Summer 2016.