Photo by MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
Upon his arrival onstage last night at the Tower Theater, Flying Louts (a.k.a. Steven Ellison) tilted his head skyward and petitioned the ‘Whiskey Fairy’ for a divine intervention. FlyLo was, he said, about to spirit-guide the jam-packed audience to their ego deaths, which is no easy task without an entire bottle of liquor at the ready. Then, with a maniacal grin, Flying Lotus informed the Tower crowd that they were dead and with that the wild rumpus had begun. Though terrifyingly ominous at times, Flying Lotus’ signature spaced-out jazz-infused electro-ambient hip-hop whosiewhatsit set sent the audience spiraling towards ego-death in the most gracious yet thrilling way.
His music is rooted in heavy electronic-based beats set off by contrastingly light and hauntingly airy sonic filigree. When fused together with a little bit of distortion, the result feels like a cruise-controlled drive down Rainbow Road, as was the case with the chimed-out “Turtles” from the just-out You’re Dead! and robot sounds of “Computer Face//Pure Being” from 2010’s Cosmogramma. The intensity level of Ellison’s laptop conjurings was upped exponentially by the dangerously stimulating visuals that surrounded him: seizure-inducing strobe lights and trippy rear screen projections that made for a psychedelic 3-D experience. Projections included a mixture of warped fractals, vibrantly-hued animated cosmic explorations, and the gruesomely twisted You’re Dead! cartoons, which featured people peeling off their faces and flying around in a beautifully bloody swirl of detached limbs.
At one point, Flying Lotus came out from behind the projector screen to rap as his alter ego Captain Murphy, who, in cartoon form, is a blinged-out, trippy gangster dude, whose presence stands somewhere between ‘superhuman’ and ‘grim reaper.’ The show was a sensational experience for the eyes, the ears, and mind. After the lively finale of “Never Catch Me,” which was teased at moments throughout the show, the audience was successfully reborn. In just under an hour, Flying Lotus made it clear that death, however bleak it seems, could be a more exhilarating experience than anything we could prepare for in a lifetime. — MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ