July 29, 2021 at Brooklyn Mirage
Even as the pandemic caused the music scene to become relatively uneventful, experimental producer Flying Lotus racked up considerable achievements during the lockdown. He won his first Grammy for his soulful production work on It Is What It Is, the album by his friend and frequent collaborator Thundercat. He produced and scored “Yasuke,” a MAPPA-produced anime on Netflix starring Lakeith Stanfield and inspired by the life of Yasuke, a black samurai from the 1500s. With all that behind him, FlyLo put together an eccentric lineup for his first post-pandemic concert at the Brooklyn Mirage on July 29, 2021.
The night started with a warm-up set by Ryan Celsius, a YouTube lo-fi/cloud trap producer who played his first show ever that night. The mix of phonk, hip-hop, and trap beats had the crowd excited at times, but the overly ambient interludes and transitions made the early crowd lose the energy it built up many times throughout the set.
Afterward, in an almost jarring sonic left turn, came Jerry Paper, the Stones Throw bedroom pop singer/songwriter, and their band for their “first show in two years.” The muzak-like jams at the start of the set were a curveball for a lot in the crowd, but as the set progressed and became more energetic, the crowd followed into a more funky groove.
Just as Jerry Paper finally got the crowd loosened up, the microphone changed hands to Reggie Watts, the looping beatboxer. He started the set by looping “it’s not connected” to the sound techs and developed that into a whole beat to the point where you couldn’t put your finger on if it was a bit or simply improvisation. “This is not actually the real show; you’re just using a memory recreating technology sometime in the future,” he stated to the crowd, deadpan, after the impromptu soundcheck beat before doing a beatbox cover of Grimes’ “Darkseid” with Lorde lyrics. That brand of chaos is par for the course for Watts, and he built on that motif throughout the night as he slowly layered tracks, morphing each one into entirely produced concepts before stripping each down. Though it wasn’t long until it ended, his set only totaled a disappointing half an hour before he announced Flying Lotus to a now wholly ready crowd.
Regardless of the bumpy start to the night, FlyLo came out swinging with a mix as varied as the night that preceded it. He blended the soulful tracks he did with MF DOOM and Thundercat, performed as his rap alter ego (Captain Murphy), played tracks from his new “Yasuke” soundtrack, and threw in a slew of unreleased hard electronic trap music to mix with the rest of his diverse electronic soundscapes. Complete with FlyLo’s visuals and Brooklyn Mirage’s multi-wall projection show, his set was just evidence that the now Grammy-winning producer’s musical palette can’t be defined.
After a “Dragonball Durag” send-off, where he teased an eight-minute extended version of the song, FlyLo brought out Marc Rebillet, the looping performer whose streams and videos became a viral hit over the pandemic, out for a live beat-making performance of themselves to end the night. Marc was just as energetic as he was in his videos, standing on the table within minutes of being brought out, and their chemistry was evident. The crowd chanted for Reggie Watts to join, and without any pause in the music, Watts tapped to add his flare to the ever-layering loops. Though just as they were getting into it, the show ended, very short of the hour they went for beforehand.
Maybe Reggie Watts was right. Maybe that show was just some memory-recreation tool that just played mad libs with the missing pieces to produce this AI-generated setlist and lineup. One thing that’s certain, though, is that Flying Lotus still has it.