Flying Lotus: arguably one of the most experimental people in music at the moment, what’s not to like? I’m excited. Having been the highlight of my Bestival, blowing the roof off the Big Top Stage, I was looking forward to checking him out tonight in the more intimate setting of Mornington Crescent’s KOKO.
Arriving into the venue around 8ish it was already about a quarter full, filling up to almost full by the time the first support came on, such is the reputation of Mr Lotus as an influential selector; who in their right minds would want to miss his choice of support for the evening? This support came in the form of Harmonic 313. With releases on labels such as the ever influential Hyperdub and Warp Records, and the backing of Fly Lo, I was expecting this to be huge. It wasn’t! Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good set put together by someone who is obviously a very competent DJ, but that’s about it. The personal highlight for me was when he dropped “Apollo 9” by Jo.
By the end of his set the venue was rammed, the anticipation of the crowd was evident in the amount of people pushing forwards and conversely in the people getting irritated by this. The crowd was so diverse that it’s hardly surprising that in the build up to FlyLo taking to the stage there was some tension between the different groups. The stoned hippies, the hipsters, people here to dance, some to stand and listen.
As soon as Flying Lotus took to the stage however all these differences were united, a harmony swept the room if you will, everyone united by one common love. Tonight Flying Lotus was billed as a “unique live show”. Essentially this meant he was joined by Dorian Concept on keys and Richard Spaven on drums. The drummer was great, no issues there at all. It was the inclusion of Dorian Concept which I’ll take issue with.
Initially it was great FlyLo was doing his thing, Spaven was bashing away on drums, Dorian was adding his own style of keyboard jazz stylings over the top. Pretty soon though Dorian Concept really started to get on my nerves, it was like he was there purely to play bad improv over everything else that was going on. This went on probably for the best part of 40 mins, although by the end it felt like forever and as much as I’m loath to admit it I was kinda waiting for the gig to finish so that we could leave. YES it really was that bad. It sounded unbelievably under rehearsed, which was later revealed true when FlyLo stated “we have only practiced together for about 20 minutes”. Now I’m all for experimentation and improvisation but not in front of a paying crowd at your only London show! Thankfully just when I was thinking it could only get better; it did!
Flying Lotus stopped taking the back seat, and started pumping out some of the awesome synth sounds he’s best known for. Dorian Concept looked a bit confused at this point, sticking around only to try even more miserably to play something over the top, before finally leaving the stage. About time too.
Once Flying Lotus took to the stage and started putting on the kind of show he’s famous for it went off, the crowd instantly got into it, everyone connected with what was happening on the stage where beforehand some of the crowd were starting to look a bit disinterested. Suddenly hands were in the air, people were dancing and having a good time. FlyLo himself too looked like he was having way more fun, looking up at the crowd more and generally increasing the level of interaction.
The change was remarkable, it was essentially two different sets, were it not for the fact that we overheard two girls talking about how the first half was “much better” I would try to claim that it was all a bit self indulgent for those first 40 mins, but evidently some people did enjoy it.
I can’t tell you which songs were played, Flying Lotus live isn’t about that kind of experience, every now and then you catch 30 seconds of a crowd favorite like “Tea Leaf Dancers”, and everyone goes crazy, but really it’s all about sounds, and the emotions they conjure up.
A trademark of Flying Lotus (read something he did the only other time I saw him) is his reticence to leave the stage. At Bestival they had to cut the power to get him to leave! This wasn’t quite on that level but he ran over a fair while by repeatedly promising the sound man he had just one more song, before playing another 10 minutes. Whilst it’s awesome to see an artist so in to what he’s doing it kinda just made me think that I wish he’d cut all the crap at the start and played the whole show the same way as the second half, which would have made it AMAZING, rather than just good.
When Flying Lotus and his synths and electronics came to the fore there was nowhere else I’d rather have been on a cold wet Tuesday night, when they we’re doing all their experimental jazz stuff I would much rather have been on a dingy floating out to sea in a thunder storm!
The moral of the story friends is this; you need Flying Lotus in your life, he’s one of the most influential men in music at the moment, and rightly so. Just check the poster before you buy tickets to make sure it’s not a “unique live show”.
Edit: – Post originally written for Under City Lights Magazine. It can also be found online here -http://bit.ly/9VNCu3