Flying Lotus - The Warehouse Project, Manchester - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Flying Lotus - The Warehouse Project, Manchester

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2012-08-19

It’s hard to know what the crowd at the Warehouse Project will make of Thundercat, mainly because they’ve just been dancing to Madness and Shabba Fucking Ranks. But that’s students for you – and the crowd tonight is clearly made up almost entirely of students, especially of the ‘JP from Fresh Meat’ variety. I should hate them but, actually, they’re a little endearing. I guess I’m getting soft in my old age.

Thundercat augments his synth sounds, as he is wont, with live bass and drums. Anyone’s who’s a fan will know he likes to noodle – big time. This tendency is even more pronounced live. Sure enough, there’s a minor exodus from the dancefloor but, surprisingly, most of the crowd stay and some even gamely try to dance to Thundercat’s freaky, trippy, free-form jamming.

As Mr Cat wibbles and meanders his way through (I think) ‘MmmHmm’ it’s hard to supress the urge to shout at my fellow clubbers “Don’t you realise you’re dancing to avant-jazz, you tiny fools!”, but really it’s quite sweet they’re even trying, like the time I drank mouthwash in an youthful effort to get drunk. They just wanna get loaded and have a good time.

Next up is Captain Murphy, aka Steven Ellison, aka, obviously, Flying Lotus. Tonight marks not only his first European gig as his rapping alter-ego but also his first time playing with a live band. Ellison says they’ve only had one rehearsal prior to this and it has to be said they do sound impressively tight, although I’m not a big fan of the sound they make.

Live, Captain Murphy’s music is less stoned and psychedelic. Instead, backing up Ellison’s surprisingly butch rapping, the band sound like a rap-metal act with The Doors’ Ray Manzarek improvising some jazz chords over the top. Ellison does have an excellent evil cackle, though, which he unleashes repeatedly, and looks like he’s having fun.

Following an excellent DJ set from Kutmah which merges dubstep, hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and all points between, brain-melting graphics fill the huge screen behind the decks and FlyLo re-emerges to play solo. He’s bouncing and Tiggerish, somehow managing to treat a massive space crammed with strangers like he’s spinning tracks off the cuff at a house party. He doesn’t do ‘the hits’, of course; just a familiar beat here and a recognisable melody there (at one point we get a very welcome blast of the excellent ‘GNG BNG’ from Los Angeles), submerged beneath a swirling kaleidoscope of shifting sounds and competing genres.

It’s far more pounding and aggressive then his most recent, disappointingly wussy album, Until the Quiet Comes. Unfortunately, as is a feature of these gig/DJ set hybrids, every time a groove really gets going, it’s abruptly truncated, although with FlyLo it’s almost forgivable since he genuinely appears to be working without a set plan. He tells us he can feel the spirit of Freddie Mercury, and then to prove it he plays us a sped-up version of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ which, of course, he cuts off midway though.

There’s something irresistibly likeable about Ellison in person, even if tonight’s set contains only the merest flashes of the genius he displays on record. He thanks us, insisting the UK always showed him love, even when the rest of the world was uninterested. It’s genuinely touching. Then he bounds of stage. How surprising that the stoned space cadet should turn out to be a big, energetic puppy dog.

Next, and a little inexplicably, we get Rustie. I love the man’s music, and I guess the thinking is that he can provide a suitably thumping end to the night, but I have to say that his set, heavy on macho hip hop and light on the gloriously mindfucking, hyperactive genre-clash he specialises in on record, left me cold, headachy, and ready for the train home. Forgive me, children. I’m old now. 

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John Mayer is insipid and gives blues-rock a bad name.

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