On Friday, November 14, sound manipulator and beat master, Flying Lotus, captivated an audience at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. Upon entry, the scene seemed crowded and chaotic. I could hear the muffled slap of Thundercat's bass. A sultry and familiar sound. After a long wait for an expensive libation, I finagled my way toward the stage. Hordes of people in all shapes, shades and shimmers populated every level of the Wiltern theater. By the time I found the optimal spot for my viewing pleasure, Thundercat's slaps were replaced with Mr. Oizo's (a pleasant surprise) thumps as the crowd pulsated to his infectious beats. With a modest setup, Mr. Oizo needed only his CDJs to quicken our heart rates. My toes began to tap uncontrollably, trying to keep up with my swiveling hips. A long time fan of Mr. Oizo, a derivation of the French word oiseau meaning "bird," I was saturated with excitement. His dark lyrics and grimy house beats made me feel invincible.
After an invigorating set by Mr. Oizo, the air began to prickle with anticipation for Flying Lotus. After seeing him at the House of Blues 17 months ago, I knew what my brain was about to ingest. At the House of Blues show, Flying Lotus was sandwiched between two screens, the one in front of him sheer and the one behind him opaque. Each screen was decorated with its own set of hallucinogenic projections. A year and five months later, Flying Lotus traversed to the next dimension. The 3rd dimension, to be exact. Encompassed by a cube within a cube, he was no longer sandwiched, but encased. Donning a black, post-apocalyptic, skull shaped mask bespectacled by glowing, amber eye holes, the warm lights of the goggles eerily floated behind the fractalized cube with the grace of a praying mantis. The visual artists who provided the mind-melting projections created a galactic dreamscape that can only be simulated by hallucinogenic drugs. Everyone was frying on Flying Lotus.
Together we all swayed like kelp as brains bobbed and fed on his decadent sound feast. A fusion of avant garde, electronic music, jazz sensibility and hip-hop, Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, united many corners of the musical world. At one point during his performance, he acknowledged the eclectic crowd that his music attracted. Even his grandmother was in attendance, coincidentally seated right in front of me. There is something especially magical about seeing an artist perform in his hometown. He boasted his love for the city and the people within it, all standing before him to show support for his craft. Though the majority of the crowd did not know him personally, at that moment we all felt like family. As we were taken deeper into the center of the Lotus, my heart and mind felt radiant. Everyone around me was entranced and enchanted as his vibrations blanketed us. The room was brimming with inspiration. Music is like a magnet. We don't choose to like it, we are drawn to it like the needle of a compass is drawn to the north.
With eyes locked onto the stage, a shadowy, stilted figure emerged from the wings wielding a silhouetted scythe. It took two deep breaths for me to realize that it was the mascot of Flying Lotus' "You're Dead" tour, the Grim Reaper himself. Floating in a sea of mist, he glided across the stage and into the audience who welcomed Death with open arms and flashing iPhones. While seemingly dark, Flying Lotus' newest album is meant to be a representation of life as much as death. The two are intertwined and one would not exist without the other. A stark reality brought to light through the genius of his music.
A Flying Lotus show would not be complete without a cameo from Captain Murphy. His rapping alter-ego named after an Adult Swim cartoon character represents not only his duality as a musician, but also his playfulness as a performer. He materialized from within the cubed cube and took us on a rhyming ride down a flowing river of rhythm. It became an entirely different experience as he brought out the hip-hop in all of us. To constantly recreate yourself is the ultimate display of human adaptability. Instead of waiting a generation to evolve, why not give it a shot in this lifetime? The craft of a performance artist is to connect; connect with the audience, connect wires to equipment, connect the physical to the spiritual, connect themselves to their own creations, but most selflessly, to connect the world.