If there were ever a theme to tonight’s rammed Basement show, it would be a sweet jam session. No decks. No backing tracks. Minimal buttons. Just pure organic instrumentation and some fire personalities.
Starting with pint-size lyricist and self-professed queen Sampa The Great, her wicked trio of brightly clothed backing singers and her insatiably talented band. Amidst the exchanges of smiles and grooves between all on stage, Sampa’s impish attitude is infectious, bopping along to each beat and spitting songs that dally between gripping and playful. ‘Jamal’, ‘Class Trips’, and ‘Female’ prove crowd pleasers, but ‘Beatrice’ and ‘Weoo’ prove most popular, inciting uncontrollably sways and a minor sing along.
From words a plenty to the bare minimum. But aside from the intermittent singing, Californian bass-boss Thundercat and his companions prove they are the epitome of true musicianship. After a simple hello and guitar tuning, a wall of sound overwhelms us. Wobbling bass surfs through the sold-out room, and the percussive chimes shimmer elegantly.
For the next hour and fifteen minutes, we’re for the most part motionless (bad news for all wearing heeled shows, let me tell you), transfixed in awe as Stephen Bruner’s fingers dot and dance rapidly along the length of his Ibanez Artcore hollow bodied guitar. His singing varies too, one moment a soulful falsetto, the next loud, full and filled with motive.
Not only is their sound and energy inexplicable, but also for the most part their synergy leaves spectators in disbelief. Only glancing at each other from time-to-time, these three musicians wind away at their instruments, improvising, yet remaining totally in sync. Their music possesses the natural ability of sounding messy and unfocused at one moment, but suddenly the pieces fall into place and your grooving your heart out uncontrollably.
It’s ferocious at times too. Moments such as Heartbreaks + Setbacks start with simpering commanding soul, then it warps into a snippet of Complexion, the collaborative track taken from “King” Kendrick Lamar’s culturally iconic record To Pimp a Butterfly. It suddenly transforms again, this time into an all out assault on the drum kit and a ridiculous amount of notes.
We’re treated to songs old and new. ‘Tron Song’ and ‘Lotus and the Jondy’ taken from 2013’s Apocalypse and ‘Daylight’ and ‘Walkin’ from his debut album The Golden Age of Apocalypse are all met with rapture. Even the self-titled track from his 2015 album The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam leave just the clinking of glasses behind the bar audible.
Things only got more vivid and motion crazy with hits ‘Them Changes’ and ‘Oh Shiet It’s X’, with people lapping up the plodding beats and bezerk improvisation.
“I’ve been in Australia for quite some time now,” he muses to intermittent whoops. “Y’all need to get some better TV channels!”
Let’s hope our shitty televised content doesn’t deter Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner for too long. With such skill and excitement contained in just over an hour, you’d be a fool to miss his next visit.
Gallery: Thundercat & Sampa The Great / Pics Maria Boyadgis