All of us FlyLo fans were pretty excited when he finally threw us a bone and released a short film on his website, featuring a new track off of his 2012 album Until the Quiet Comes (which was actually released this Tuesday). But then A.S. Program Board came around and threw us a curveball: Flying Lotus at the Welcome Back Concert, fo’ free, fo’ all us broke-ass college kids who were too lame (or broke) to check out the Hollywood Bowl show.
Steven Ellison (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) isn’t just your average multi-genre producer from Los Angeles who has been dubbed by some critics as the creator of “acid-jazz.” No, Ellison also happens to be related to the legendary John and Alice Coltrane, the notorious jazz couple (and Ellison’s uncle and aunty) who collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis and Carlos Santana back in the day. Much like his famous family members, Flying Lotus’ avant-garde sound has all but changed the face of electronic music. Heavily laden with samples and sounds of all textures and colors, his music is not as accessible as whatever the kids at fratmusic.com have got going, but it’s definitely worth a listen. And the nice thing about all this is that you can actually dance to his music, too. Or at least the nice people at A.S.P.B. thought so.
A.S.’s choice of headliner for this year’s concert was exciting for other reasons, too: our main man FlyLo is not going to be touring our lovely state as extensively as most artists do, as he is set to jet off to Euro-land to wow techno-lovers who may be a little more receptive to Lotus’ mellow. And of course, Flying Lotus is one of those mainstream artists who isn’t completely asinine, so I was pretty jazzed and figured everyone else would be, too (you know, ‘cause college kids are way intellectual and stuff and listen to alternative music, etc).
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
See, I was ready that night. Despite the protestations of my friends and loved ones, my good friend and I (another avid fan) made sure that we left no later than half an hour early, so as to secure the best spot. Most of my friends who’d never heard of Flying Lotus were also pretty jazzed because I was practically convulsing. But a too-packed house was not a problem, as Storke Plaza was a Siberian wasteland when we arrived. Whatever, no big deal.
Flying Lotus took the stage with a “Santa Barbara, I’m gonna slap y’all in the face.” And oh, did he ever. Though the speakers may have been a little too loud (my ears were ringing all night) FlyLo gave it his best. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Flying Lotus perform at Coachella, and I’ll say it again: one of the great things about Ellison is that you can tell he actually loves his music. I’m talking pure adoration. With this beatific, little-kid smile on his face and his head bobbing to the beat, Ellison’s hands moved and his body flowed with the transition of each song, turning the DJ set into some sort of cosmic waltz. And song after song, mostly off of his 2010 album Cosmogramma, you could feel the vibrations in your chest, ready to do that astral plane again and again. Though the turnout wasn’t as great as last year’s Big Sean (anyone remember his “ass” mantra?), Ellison did his best to rile up the crowd and get them to feel his sound. He started out the show with some of his crazier shape-shifting songs off of LA and 1983, then slowly melded into Cosmogramma and began sampling some more popular songs. Knowing his audience, he threw in some “Ni**as in Paris,” along with the Jackson 5’s “One More Chance,” and then Waka Flocka’s “Hard in Da Paint.” Trying to rev up the crowd near the end, Ellison jumped down closer to the crowd. Even though the show was ending, he jumped back up on stage after that and played a couple more songs.
I asked a lot of my peers what they thought about the show, as this was the first time any of them had ever heard Flying Lotus. A lot of them were pleasantly surprised, some were shocked and awed and there was a big bunch of them who were kind of confused and a little annoyed. I can definitely understand this, as the first time I hit play on my iPod (this was when Cosmogramma had first come out), I heard some weird beeping noises and immediately switched back to The Kills.
In any case, I’d invite anyone who’s looking for something new and interesting to give Flying Lotus a listen if they haven’t already. I can say with the utmost certainty that you won’t regret it. And if you do, you can always go back to Rihanna. God knows she’ll be on the radio for a long, long time.