Over the last decade, few record labels boast a catalog as strong as Brainfeeder’s. The Los Angeles-based label, known for its contributions to hip-hop, electronic music, jazz, and more, consistently puts out forward-thinking material that blurs genre lines and defies expectations. Some of Brainfeeder’s best were on display Tuesday night in the First Avenue Mainroom. They combined varying styles for a memorable show.
Salami Rose Joe Louis opened the night. Based in California (as each of the artists on the bill were), SRJL set the stage for what was to come with a mellow-yet-engaging set that touched on jazz, psychedelia, and, to a lesser extent, hip-hop. While those influences would be a through-line during the various acts as well as her own, each synthesized them uniquely, making for a cohesive show that never threatened to go stale.
SRLJ’s set featured excellent understated vocals and dreamy keyboard tones that stood in contrast with the more intense fare that would come later in the night. At its best moments, its well crafted and interesting sonic textures were mesmerizing. She has a new record coming out very soon (August 30 on Brainfeeder), and if her set was any indication, it’ll be a good one.
Brandon Coleman was next, playing in a trio with more of a jazzy funk sound. One unique part of the set was Coleman’s use of vocal effects, most frequently the talk-box (!). Though it was billed as “Brandon Coleman Spacetalker,” it was even more “cosmic” than expected (the same could also be said for the other acts).
While the vocal effects were interesting, the piano skills of Coleman took the set to the next level. Showing an expert’s touch on his many pianos and keyboards (I counted four of them onstage), Coleman moved through the arrangements with dexterity and authoritative confidence.
Headliner Flying Lotus remarked at one point late in his set that seeing Coleman inspired him to take the piano more seriously. Anybody who saw this set would believe that one hundred percent. After the set ended emphatically with a few of the group’s more inspired numbers, the crowd rewarded them with a standing ovation.
As interesting as Coleman and SRJL were, there was a palpable buzz surrounding the headliner. Producer extraordinaire Flying Lotus, fresh off the release of Flamagra, his first release in five years, brought his latest 3D tour to Minneapolis.
The tour was hotly anticipated for many reasons. Not least among them was Flamagra, a strong and ambitious effort that fans and critics have embraced. It successfully maintains and builds upon many of the things he does well as a producer and artist. Of course, the tour’s 3D visuals didn’t hurt interest, nor did the fact that Flylo hadn’t played First Ave since 2017. It all proved to be a recipe for serious fan enthusiasm Tuesday night.
The anticipation was warranted. Expectedly, the show covered lots of ground musically. In his productions, Flylo reliably flouts genre convention, refusing to adhere to the sonic orthodoxies that define many of the styles he works with. This proved to be true as well during his set at First Avenue, with his unique and distinct blend of hip hop, jazz, funk, and electronic music mingling with fusion, prog, and more. Each facet of his sound had airtime during the 90-minute set.
The music wasn’t the only story. The 3D visuals more than lived up to their promise, meshing with the sound to create an immersive and highly psychedelic experience. It was quite intense. Much of the imagery revolved around the content of Flylo’s previous two albums, Flamagra and You’re Dead. This included flames, lightning, and even an occasional trip through the cosmos.
Though the lights and visuals threatened to be overwhelming and/or disorienting at points, they didn’t distract from the music. In fact, they enhanced it. The show was a rewarding experience both musically and visually.
The tone loosened up a bit during the last half hour, which saw a run of “hits” from the Flylo catalog, as well as cuts by a few of his friends (as a rule, Thundercat’s “Them Changes” always slaps). The run showed off a more (relatively) accessible aspect of his music that wasn’t always highlighted during the set. It was yet another tool for an artist that seems to have a million at his disposal.