Just before 2am on Saturday morning, Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus took his place onstage between two sheer projector screens. His show had been delayed for over two and a half hours due to flight issues which meant him and his team were stranded in Wellington, NZ. Always in good spirits, the multi-faceted producer, rapper and creative greeted us warmly, listing Melbourne as his “favourite Australian city” before apologising sincerely. As the lights went down, he abruptly ended his introduction with a simple and menacing two words: “You’re dead.”
What followed immediately can only be described as sensory overload. The previously dark room now erupted with a dynamic volcano of visual imagery and pulsating strobe lights. The combination of graphics and textured musical arrangements makes the show feel interactive; cinematic; magical. FlyLo, clad in all black right down to a custom made face covering dubbed ‘the death veil mask’, stood directly in the centre of the madness, controlling it all to the second. The sound and light seemed to flow through his body and out of his fingertips like a series of vicious Street Fighter ‘hadoukens’. He was both the hero and the villain, serving up his own unique fusion of experimental hip-hop, jazz, dance, and electro. To start the night off, he took us through some of the early tracks from his latest release, You’re Dead, mixed seamlessly into the Erykah Badu assisted ‘See Thru To U’ from 2012s Until The Quiet Comes, topped off with some hard-hitting, bass heavy beats layered underneath the Thundercat vocals of ‘Descent into Madness’. Paired with the immersive three-dimensional visual show, it really felt like we were soaring through outer space and descending into madness on our way to the unknown.
As Flying Lotus got more comfortable in his realm and the crowd started to heat up, he took the opportunity to drop an unreleased freestyle from Chicago’s Chance The Rapper overtop his track ‘Ready Err Not’. This was mixed into Mac Miller’s ‘S.D.S’ (which he produced) from Mac’s Watching Movies With The Sound Off. He continued through his hip-hop heavy repertoire, dropping ‘Medication Meditation’ featuring Krayzie Bone, a track made especially for FlyLo FM, his fictitious radio station from Grand Theft Auto V. FlyLo then removed his mask and picked up a mic to take us through his most recent single, the reverent and stirring ‘Coronus The Terminator’. As cloudy smoke enveloped his silhouette, he sang and danced along, noticeably in touch with every word. As the room went from a hazy covering of mysterious grey to a bright white stream of light, it was clear that this was the metaphysical moment. We had arrived. We had reached the afterlife, a place where our need for reason and explanation disappeared.
The second phase of the night began with a reminder that a standout show is dependent on the audience, “I could be having fun and killing the setlist” claimed FlyLo, “but this is still your party. You gotta turn up.” With that he dropped ‘Putty Boy Strut’ one of the more playful and upbeat tracks in his arsenal, and a personal favourite of mine. The crowd responded to his high energy with increased movement and participation. By now it was a party, so FlyLo decided to share ‘Eyes Above’ complete with the now notorious Kendrick verse that unfortunately didn’t make the album due to ‘political reasons.’ Unsurprisingly, Kendrick snaps on this particular track, his flow lending itself perfectly to Flying Lotus’ production, ending off his verse with the memorable line, “Buffalo soldiers at war, you shot fast but that ain’t the final score.”
In the closing stages of the night, FlyLo emerged from behind his screen to treat us to a performance from his rapping alter-ego, the formidable character of Captain Murphy. Like nearly everything he dabbles in, rap seems to be an undertaking FlyLo started just for fun. Despite his body of work pushing boundaries and often exploring intensely morbid subject matter, as a person he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. When he finished ‘Between Friends’ (featuring Earl Sweatshirt) and proceeded to resume his place behind the scrim, a generous audience member called him back over to offload a mysterious handful of something. After a full minute of laughter and scarcely covered shock, FlyLo graciously accepted the offering and assured her “this will be consumed at a later date” before concluding “Australia is crazy. I love you guys.”
To finish up on a high, Flying Lotus paid tribute to fellow Californian Schoolboy Q and dropped the energetic crowd-pleaser ‘Man of the Year’ which everybody, himself included, went crazy for. Next was the bouncy ‘Deadman’s Tetris’ which he raps on with Long Beach legend Snoop Dogg. By now, everybody knew the night had to end with the Kendrick assisted smash hit, ‘Never Catch Me’ and we were right. As Flying Lotus graciously thanked us for coming out, he concluded his incomparable two hour display of sophisticated live visual and sonic complexity with the confident promise, “As we continue on this quest, know that you will never, ever, catch me.” After seeing that, I can’t think of anyone who is even close.