Thundercat funks up art and music Summer Happenings at The Broad

The sound was on and the lights were on (after hours until 11:00 pm) at The Broad on Thursday evening, for a special night of music and art. Self-described Japanophile, Thundercat played in celebration of the exhibit Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tall of a Rainbow (running through September 25, 2022). Summer Happenings at The Broad was a night of high-brow magic and also featured SoCal indie-pop act Ginger Root sharing the billĀ alongside LA Lo-fi electro-jazz artist Linafornia.

Huntington Beach indie-pop act Ginger Root played primarily new tracks from the past few years including several off 2021 EP City Slicker. The dream-pop tune “B4” and new one “Neighbor” kicked off the set. The quirky, percussion-heavy groover “Karaoke” got the crowd moving and lead singer Cameron Lew’s vocals had the perfect amount of warped effects on them, accompanied with a driving bass from Dylan Hovis and the beats knocking from Matt Carney. Ginger Root took the crowd to France with Lew’s hand-held melodica leading the dreamy song and he talked to the crowd in an almost Mad Lib-like story about driving through downtown Los Angeles. Muffled vocals brought an alluring effect to the experimental, 80s, indie-pop tune “Juban District” with funky synths, blended with a jazzy “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”. 

Photo by Priscilla Mars

Ginger Root played a cover of Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Kimi Ni Mune Kyun” and Lew said, “We are very nervous for this show, but we are very honored to share the stage with Thundercat”. “City Slicker” may have reminded the concertgoers of Hall & Oates, with its rocking instrumentation, soulful vocal from Lew and overall production that had elements of The Buggles. Strong vocals with a slightly muffled effect on some parts stood out on the twinkling, brand new track “Loneliness”. Jazzy, bluesy moments from the bass and drums took the cake on the funky “Loretta” and the joyful set was capped with the indie-pop track “Weather” with Lew encouraging the crowd’s “call-and-response”, simply repeating “I” after he sang “I”. 

Thundercat‘s set included stories and he reminisced and got deeply honest. He was cracking jokes while also gracious the entire evening, paying respects to those who came before him, both musicians and teachers and others who have been lost that he respects. Hitting the stage in a black hoodie with his red bass in hand, Thundercat asked fans if they liked the smoke machine. “I hate the smoke machine”, said Thundercat, to laughter from the crowd. He was joined by Dennis Hamm on the keys and Justin Brown on the drums for a full blown jam session on “Innerstellar Love”.

“You guys, I’m wearing a kilt”, said Thundercat. “Not to be confused with a skirt”. [Applause of course from the audience].

Photo by Priscilla Mars

There was plenty more jamming, with Thundercat giving off the best stank face, while Hamm drilled home some crazy improv on the keys. On “Overseas”, the band played a delightful, jazzy instrumental section with Brown getting into some intricate rhythms, while yellow beams flashed on the musicians, blending with a purple stage wash.

“Every time I sing that song I feel like a whore”, said Thundercat before asking how many of his fans are part of the mile high club.

The lights were red and blue for the favorite “Dragonball Durag”, with some stellar falsetto from Thundercat and the bass was equally killer, grinding on the tune. Thundercat shouted out one of his favorite musicians, Louis Cole, and also mentioned his friend and pianist and said “RIP Austin Peralta”. “The story in this song is funny as shit”, said Thundercat. “I don’t know if you know but I used to drink a lot. People thought it was cute ’til I almost burned the house down”.

Thundercat and his bandmates played the uptempo “I Love Louis Cole”, with synthesizer taking over midway during the instrumental and Thundercat screaming at the end of the tune. It had moments of punk and others that sounded like a plane was about to land.

Thundercat gave a nod to Insecure creator and actress Issa Rae, asking the crowd, “Do you see yourselves in that show?” “I got the chance to work on the soundtrack for Insecure. I got to do a few cool fucking things. I was in Star Wars guys”. The falsetto and overall instrumentation on “Satellite” were otherworldly and sounded like a legit space voyage.

Thundercat talked about the world recently losing bass player Michael Henderson who used to play with Miles Davis. “You never know what people are going through”, said Thundercat. He mentioned how it’s been a weird few years and a moment when the world has lost a lot of people.

He continued, dedicating a moment to comedian Jak Knight, who also recently passed. He gave some love to teacher Reggie Andrews, saying “[he] was a lot of young mens’ fathers. If it wasn’t for Reggie Andrews, I wouldn’t be the musician I am today”. Thundercat stopped a fan in distress and after all was good, he talked about his Grammy Award-winning high school music teacher Andrews (who also recently passed), who mentored Kamasi Washington, Tyrese, Terrace Martin and many others.

Funk/blues artist Georgia Anne Muldrow was in the crowd and Thundercat of course gave her a shout. He continued with Flying Lotus track “Black Gold” which features Thundercat, with plenty of funk and lots of synth. The band went right into Thundercat smash “Funny Thing” with the hood back up on the sweatshirt, colors flashing on the stage and the crowd loving the moment with everyone’s hands up and concertgoers dancing on the East West Bank Plaza.

After a short interlude, Thundercat said, “Thank you LA!”, introducing his band members and raising his hands up, “I love my city”. Thundercat concluded with perhaps the most delicious bass-led track of the past decade, “Them Changes”, completely cooking on his womp-womps. The band offered what sounded like some jazzy, improvised moments while the crowd vibed throughout.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Priscilla Mars