Funk Bands Shake Up Hollywood Bowl

Illuminated in the warm and hazy sunset of the Los Angeles valley, the Hollywood Bowl exploded last Saturday, Sept. 17, with the bass-heavy, funky sounds of artists signed to Brainfeeder, electronic musician Flying Lotus’s independent record label. The lineup included local giants such as Thundercat and FlyLo himself, matched by a collaboration of funk’s legendary groups Funkadelic and Parliament under the command of icon George Clinton.

L.A.-based DJ The Gaslamp Killer opened the show with a whirlwind of multi-genre remixes heavy on drum and bass. Shaggy-haired and wild-eyed, The Gaslamp Killer caught the interest of the eager crowd with a souped-up survey of music essentials over the decades. The set’s flow, while bizarre on paper, was actually creative and coherent with Nirvana’s “Lithium” flowing into a bassy rendition of the Kinks’s “You Really Got Me” among others.

The end of the set showcased singles from The Gaslamp Killer’s upcoming album, Instrumentalepathy, shifting the energy into the realm of eerie vocal hums and murmurs over spooky synth.

Seattle hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces followed, flooding the Bowl in Afrofuturistic wonder. While frontman Ishmael Butler’s rapping was muffled under the almighty power of the bass, the mixing of drum machine, shaker, and bongos were enough to capture anyone’s attention. The group’s syncopated hand signs and claps on “They Came in Gold” were also something to see.

Bass virtuoso Thundercat took the stage next, continuing the night’s celebration of the lower end of sound. Clad in boxers, a black robe, and accompanied by an energetic drummer and a silent but deadly keyboardist, Thundercat dominated his double-necked instrument with mind-blowing bass melodies and soft, crooning vocals. He injected his special brand of fusion jazz into the night with “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” and “Lotus and the Jondy.”

The set came to a triumphant crescendo with the guest appearance of Doobie Brother Michael McDonald on his classic “What a Fool Believes,” the crowd singing and dancing in the masterful pairing of artists. Thundercat then wonderfully hinted at the singer's appearance on his upcoming album, much to the crowd's pleasure. 

Just when the concert’s energy seemed at its peak, Funkadelic and Parliament triumphantly took to the stage as the evening's rightful royalty. Funk patriarch George Clinton, regaled in an orange Panama hat and shining robe, commanded the energy of the set’s dozen performers, getting the groove going for the enthralled crowd dancing underneath the darkening night sky. 

The giant group opened with newer material that didn't quite strike a nerve with the crowd, but the mesmerizing solos from the array of background singers helped to recapture the night's magic. The driving guitar and funky slap bass, supplemented by trumpet and saxophone solos on “Flash Light,” were powerful enough to leave any listener winded. The set’s highlight had to come with the Funk standard “Give Up the Funk” drenched in enough groovy energy to drive droves of the audience out of their seats to dance. 

While Funkadelic and Parliament whipped the crowd into a funky frenzy, the night’s headliner brought a terrifying and electric turn to the night. Flying Lotus took the stage alone and hidden behind an immense projector. The set sent the evening into the digital age with morbid, experimental electronica, the bass solidly supporting the freakishly beautiful synth.

The set’s visuals were nothing short of intense, travelling between dimensions of Lovcraftian organic forms, M.C. Escher-esque cube worlds, and Tron-like prisons of electric light. FlyLo’s set paid homage to his fellow musicians as well, with an extraterrestrial rendition of Travi$ Scott’s “Antidote” and bassy remixes of Kendrick Lamar's “King Kunta” and “Wesley’s Theory.” FlyLo ended the night with a preview of his forthcoming album, rich in chilling vocals and truly spooky production. The Bowl was certainly alive with Brainfeeder in what was most definitely one of the best concerts the city had this summer.

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