Thundercat @ the o2 abc
By Claudia Hockey
“Everything in this song is true. I’m gonna play this shit again for you real slow, so it sinks in...”
The venue falls quiet as Stephen Bruner, otherwise known as Thundercat, shrugs bashfully. Slowing his otherwise breakneck pace, he gently repeats the dark melody at the centre of “Tokyo”.
“It was premeditated, tried to get someone pregnant… It wasn't her fault, I'm just kind of psychotic…”
The crowd laughs awkwardly.
“... Why did I write this? Anyway, I love Tokyo. So much.”
Was he telling the truth? Or was this line, in an otherwise excitable song about anime and pachinko machines, actually a subtle social commentary on the darker underbelly of Japan’s cutesy veneer? With Thundercat, it’s impossible to tell. Personal interludes such as this dotted the entirety of his set last week – an almost disquieting hodge-podge of funk, soul and colourful anecdotes. Halfway through a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Complexion (Zulu Love)”, a song about white supremacy, eugenics, and the power of love over skin-colour, he screams “INTERRACIAL SEX!” to a round of stunned applause.
Thundercat’s nerdy charm (he regularly makes reference to everything from Rick and Morty to Dragon Ball Z), have earned him a small but dedicated following in Scotland. When I first arrived at the O2 ABC, the venue was virtually empty. My flatmate and I had time to buy a t-shirt each, drinks and to chat with people at the bar, still managing to get a spot at the barrier when Dorian Concept arrived as the opening act. When Thundercat emerged, decked out in a glittery kaleidoscopic jacket, Muay Thai shorts, sparkly silver-rimmed sunglasses and his characteristic red beanie (still with the price-tag attached), the atmosphere immediately shifted. At no point in the set did the energy of the crowd wane, and Thundercat didn’t shy away from expressing his gratitude or addressing the front row directly.
For all the jokes and seemingly random references scattered across his work, Thundercat’s melodies suggest a deeper social awareness and pack a punch as a result. Already a highly skilled bass-player working alongside accomplished artists such as Snoop Dogg, Suicidal Tendencies, Childish Gambino and Mac Miller, Thundercat has spent the six years since being signed by Flying Lotus honing his craft. After being encouraged by producer and good friend Flying Lotus to pursue a solo project, he has become an unstoppable musical force in his own right.
His latest album, “Drunk”, which dropped in February of this year, is a flittering narrative that addresses themes ranging from racial unrest to what it might be like living as a cat. He played it through for Glasgow in its entirety, along with slightly older work such as “Heartbreaks + Setbacks”, and regular bouts of improvisation with a live band including Justin Brown on drums and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on the violin. The sheer speed at which Thundercat plays the bass is an impressive enough draw, but he won the most fans when he asked a room full of plastered Scots “who here drinks?”
If you haven’t already booked tickets to see this genre-blending mad-man, take note - Thundercat is one to watch.