After Last Night With Thundercat

Thundercat brought in many locals, out-of-towners, and music lovers alike to Brooklyn Bowl last Monday night. The show began with an opening DJ set hosted by Kitty Cash. Her set began with a dance remix of “Rain” by SWV, and it had the entire crowd singing along immediately. Another very enthusiastic reaction was brought on by her mix of “Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean. Kitty Cash set a club-like vibe: strobe lights flashing across the room, everyone dancing and having a good time, listening along to great mixes of viral hip hop hits, such as Baby Keem’s “family ties (with Kendrick Lamar)” and Cardi B’s “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. A DJ set like this one felt unexpected as an opener for Thundercat, but as someone who loves to dance, I enjoyed myself and I could tell the energy of the crowd was up where it needed to be before Thundercat took the stage. 

Thundercat and his band kicked off the show with “Lost In Space / Great Scott / 22-26” which is also the opening song on his most recent album, It Is What It Is (2020). This introductory song went right into “Interstellar Love” which remains true to the album order thus far. The next song was the quick and energetic “How Sway” off of the same album. Those who were familiar with the song were singing and jumping along with the sprightly melody and lively groove. “How Sway” was beyond impressive live because the groove never slipped or dragged, as hard and tiring of a song it was to perform and keep straight, and the band was consistent and together through the entire song. 

Local Vegas drummer, Marcus Flippen, from my favorite local group Post NC, attended the concert, and I was curious about his takeaways from the show. I asked him if he had any insight on Justin Brown, Thundercat’s drummer, to which he replied, “Justin Brown is in my top 3 favorite drummers of all time. He has a background in gospel & jazz and it shows in his playing, as he’s able to play off of the other musicians’ ideas seamlessly with an unmatched feel and great technique.” Marcus continues, “Justin & Dennis [Hamm, on keys] have been playing with Thundercat for about 10 years so their chemistry is off the charts. All 3 of them communicate musical decisions quickly whether it’s hits, section and feel changes, keeping time when Justin goes over the bar line, etc. Their energy while improvising is the main reason why I resonate with them so much.” 

From the jump, each song had an incredible build, and the instrumentation of the trio (vocals/bass, keys, and drums) blended so well together. The musicians never lost their individualism, yet they complimented each other effortlessly and moved as one cohesive unit to create their sound. The arrangement of “Overseas” they played had a different feel from the recording of It Is What It Is. They took the groove at a more casual pace, reimagining the song as a slower R&B performance which I loved. I always find it very refreshing and exciting when artists have different arrangements for live performances of certain songs. “Overseas” wasn’t entirely unrecognizable from the studio recording, but sometimes small changes in details are just as effective on listeners’ ears. 

The crowd was extra tuned in during one of his many fan favorite’s “Dragonball Durag.” It included a keyboard solo from Dennis Hamm that had everyone’s stank faces engaged. Thundercat also spoke about his meaningful relationship with progressive-pop/electronic/contemporary jazz musician Louis Cole and led into another song off of It Is What It Is that really speaks for itself (“I Love Louis Cole”) and proceeded to transition right into a cover of “Overtime” by Louis Cole’s duo, Knower. 

Thundercat fans also know of his contributions to original television soundtracks and he included a few of these beautiful songs in his setlist. He dedicated “Satellite” from the HBO Max original Insecure to its creator, Issa Rae. He explained the song’s roots– a collaboration with Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi. The performance had the whole crowd swaying along. Thundercat is also very vocal about his love and inspiration drawn from anime. The anime community that was present that night was all very excited to hear “Black Gold” which Thundercat collaborated on with Flying Lotus, for the Netflix OrIginal anime Yasuke

Vegas-based jazz violinist, Peter Goomroyan, was also in attendance and when asked why he wanted to see the concert, he replied, “I bought tickets because I have always been a fan of Thundercat’s music, and to see him live is a different experience than listening to albums. I love his creativity and unique approach to the bass and jazz as a genre.” 

He further elaborated on his takeaways, “If I could take anything away from his show, it was that he had such a great energy level with his trio. They were having such a good time on stage but were completely in sync musically as well. The show opened up my eyes to new and interesting ideas, just like most live music does.” 

Throughout the night, there was no shortage of thank yous and dedications in Thundercat’s song introductions. He paid homage to many of the jazz greats he looks up to and has grown alongside, such as Louis Cole, Kamasi Washington, and Austin Peralta. He even included a Chick Corea Tribute in his setlist (which Peter noted as one of his highlights from the concert). 

The last few songs he performed were “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” off of his early release Apocalypse (2013) and others from his 2017 album Drunk which included “Friend Zone,” “Rabbit Ho,” and “Captain Stupido.” He ended his set with, arguably, his most popular song “Them Changes” off of Drunk. This song live was so fun to vibe to and the solo sections took the song to a new, exciting place. As a musician, being able to hear the band’s improvisational ideas in widely popular songs such as “Them Changes” and others in the set like the encore song he would perform after is an invaluable experience and educational opportunity. 

As you can gather from what I’ve told you so far, my musician friends and I had a blast at the Thundercat concert, right alongside those who went to Brooklyn Bowl on Monday who are more casual listeners. It makes me extremely glad and grateful for Thundercat and his ability to bring people together through their love for music. I asked another local musician in attendance, Jeymar Perez, a saxophonist, writer and arranger, and so on, about his expectations going into the show and what moments stood out to him. “I expected there to be two types of audiences: Musicians and people who discovered Thundercat from TikTok. You could also definitely tell who was who by which people tuned out while the band was soloing. However, I knew both groups still really enjoyed the show, in their own way. That’s all an artist could ask for.” He goes on to express, “For me, the most impactful moment was that last song, ‘Funny Thing.’ It’s an amazing moment when one song can bring so much energy and joy to such a diverse audience. It also shows the influence that TikTok really has on music.”

“Funny Thing” was the perfect choice for an encore song, as it was not only a viral hit that everyone knew, but the song itself was the perfect dance song to vibe out to and wind down the night. The shows and other musical events I have attended at BBLV have never failed to be a good time and Thundercat made the night no exception, leaving me and my friends eagerly awaiting the new music he hinted to be working on and hoping that he will be back sooner rather than later!! 

Thundercat still has many stops to go on his current tour. See the rest of the dates and venues here!! 

As a fun little bonus, I asked our local music friends featured in this article what artist they had plans to see next or who they would most like to see live. Here are their answers: 

Marcus: “The first artists that come to mind that I’d like to see live are Mike Mitchell, Mononeon, Terrace Martin (only with Ronald Bruner) & Hiatus Kaiyote” 

Peter: “I don’t have any current plans to see any artists besides my favorite local groups and friends who also make amazing music but if any other of my favorite artists come into town I’ll be there most likely anyways.” 

Jeymar: “I know I’ve seen them before, but I have to go see Silk Sonic again once they come back in August. They really are the best show on earth and I need to relive that.”

Thundercat: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify | Apple Music

Article By: Kailyn Richards

Photos By: Andrew Buxmann

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