We had the privilege of seeing Flying Lotus — AKA electronic producer Steven Ellison — at Terminal 5 this past weekend, the night of the electronic producer’s birthday. I purchased my ticket months in advance, a few days after hearing his latest album. I had seen him open for Atoms For Peace in 2009, and a bit of his set at Bonnaroo but was far too tired to enjoy it properly. I had a good idea of what I was getting into but, my god, this performance exceeded all expectations.
There’s really not enough that can be said about opener and bassist Thundercat’s set. Thundercat, bassist Stephen Bruner (whose The Golden Age of The Apocalypse was released on Ellison’s Brainfeeder Label), has been featured prominently on both of FlyLo’s last two LPs — Cosmogramma and Until the Quiet Comes. Bruner’s jazzy jam sessions, are almost peerless, but when faced with opening for FlyLo even titans are overshadowed.
As the house music came on before Flying Lotus’ set the over-eager crowd began singing happy birthday to the producer — giving the producer their well-wishes and generally waiting . He was about to perform on his birthday to a sold-out Terminal 5. He had to deliver, right?
Well, on his birthday night, Flying Lotus had a near flawless set, meshing together the best tracks in hip-hop, electronic, dubstep, along with cut up versions of his own tracks. We heard J Dilla, Beastie Boy’s “Intergalactic,” TNGHT (as well as Captain Murphy rapping over TNGHT), and his revered reworking of Radiohead’s “Idioteque” alongside his own cuts including “All In,” “Kill Your Co-Workers,” and “Putty Boy Strut,” — spanning most of his catalog. There was a never a dull moment in the set as tracks were never dragged out too long and there was almost certainly always a drop of a new song around the corner that would have everyone around you jumping instantaneously. Watch out for your toes.
Ellison is a king of transitions, as showcased on his studio albums. One track seamlessly blends into the next making an album sound like more like a 50-minute soundscape than just a collection of tracks. The same applies for the most part to his live set, queuing one track into another without missing a beat. In a way, however, it’s more impressive on the live front. Ellison will sync up beats from multiple tracks together only to play them way later on in the set. For example, his cut of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Niggas in Paris” was teased and layer over other tracks throughout his performance, only to play it in the tail-end of the set for less than a minute.
Ellison brought his Brainfeeder crew on stage before closing off with a most ridiculous remix of Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in the Paint” based on the Crizzly Remix; and to think that this crowd was previously jamming to jazz. Before parting with us Flying Lotus left us with some words of advice: “stick with your crew.” If the show was any evidence then those words certainly are a secret for success.