The story goes that punk was reborn on June 4, 1976. The Sex Pistols’ first-ever gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall was attended by only 40 some people, but nearly everyone went on to do huge things musically. Steven Morrissey and Mark E. Smith later went on to form the Smiths and the Fall, respectively. Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner met a kid named Ian Curtis there, bought their first guitars the morning after, and went on to form Joy Division. Also in attendance were founding members of the Buzzcocks and Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, home to a whole host of seminal ’80s bands.
Coming up in Los Angeles these past couple of years, it’s difficult not to draw parallels between the city’s famed Low End Theory events, and that hallowed night three-and-a-half decades ago. Led by trailblazing label-heads Flying Lotus and Daddy Kev, Brainfeeder and Alpha Pup Records have set into motion a revolution in hip-hop music. Over the past few years, Low End Theory (fathered by Daddy Kev himself) has blossomed into one of the city’s premier events, playing host to a true renaissance in Los Angeles’ world of independent music, giving budding producers a launching pad for their careers just as much of hip-hop seems to have grown complacent. Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: Thom Yorke has made a couple of high-profile Wednesday night stops at the Airliner, Erykah Badu has enlisted FlyLo to produce her forthcoming sixth album, and the crowd just keeps on growing.
The usual Low End crowd was at the Music Box in full-force Wednesday night, packing into the hall as Strangeloop did his thing. Real name David Wexler, Strangeloop is notorious as the visual mastermind behind much of the Brainfeeder collective’s work, and he performed live VJ sets alongside each of the night’s other performers. He isn’t too bad on a 404 either, he proved, smashing his way through a set highlighted by a mind-stretching rework of Chase & Status’ “Eastern Jam”.
Next up was Teebs, whose tranquil sound was near-perfected on last year’s Ardour. Live, he’s a bit of different beast, lulling his audience into a placid calm before tearing shit up with a jaw-dropping banger. This was to be no different, he made clear early on, alternating between loud and quiet with a deftness that’d give the Pixies a run for their money (Get it?!?).
Special guests are commonplace at Brainfeeder/Alpha Pup events. The crew’s tight-knittedness is one of its defining factors. Here, they came in the form of Samiyam and the Gaslamp Killer. Samiyam’s stellar second record drops this Tuesday, and is a must-have for any self-respecting hip hop fan. His set was a smattering of old stuff, new stuff, and heavy-hitters off of his forthcoming Sam Baker’s Album. The Gaslamp Killer put on a typically peerless show, dropping unreleased Jeremiah Jae and Hudson Mohawke in between ear-pulverizing remixes of “Scentless Apprentice”, “Black Dog”, and “Electric Funeral” (#air guitar swag).
Thundercat took the stage next, clad in his usual opulent bronze shoulder pads, and six-string bass guitar, accompanied by Brainfeeder’s own jazz piano prodigy, Austin Peralta. The two proceeded to shred the crowd’s mind to bits. Flying Lotus, who produced Thundercat’s upcoming debut, joined in, as the trio played the record’s raptorous first single, a cover of George Duke’s “For Love I Come”. Peralta and Thundercat, both stellar jazz soloists in their own right, jammed on pieces from each of their latest records, offering an interesting, mellow departure from the evening’s heavy bass. About an hour into their set, Flying Lotus joined them again, and began his set along with guest drummer Carla Azar, of Silverlake experimentalists Autolux. From the throwdowns of “Do the Astral Plane” and Los Angeles‘ “Camel”, to the astral odyssey of “Galaxy in Janaki”, Lotus showcased Wednesday night just how fierce a storm he and his crew are brewing up in music today.
The best part? This all sounds like just the start of it. FlyLo’s 2010 beat odyssey Cosmogramma melds jazz and hip-hop in ways that are already shaking up both genres.This year’s Outmind, the latest from Low End regular Matthewdavid, has been one of the year’s most discussed albums. Even Radiohead, the world’s biggest band, displayed an obvious ear for Brainfeeder sounds on their latest full-length, King of Limbs. Look out, world: Here they come.