You didn’t need to be high to love Flying Lotus’s 3D First Ave show (but you probably were)

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus Photo courtesy of Bang On PR

Of course the air at First Avenue on Wednesday night was drenched with weed—what else would you expect at a Flying Lotus show?

Especially one billed as being “In 3D.” When FlyLo (born Steven Ellison) materialized at his controller-podium, tricked out to resemble a hypertrophied toadstool, at 9:57 p.m., he got right down to business, and so did the crowd, which collectively donned the red glasses handed out at the door. Sure enough, the lightning bolt insignia that marked the last Flying Lotus album, 2014’s You’re Dead!, began to float. And as the music began, a series of video game graphics leaped out of the screen behind him and what looked like the smoke from an exploding volcano acquired depth. It was like your favorite screensaver come to life.

This stuff presupposed intoxication, but the best thing about Flying Lotus in 3D is that you didn’t need to be buzzed even a little to enjoy it. As someone who saw Amon Tobin perform a few years back with a far more ambitious live setup (projection mapping on a series of blocks) and was so bored I wanted to scream, I can attest that the FlyLo extravaganza was far more playful and enticing.

Rather than a showcase for all new material, the music traversed the L.A. producer’s catalog. The last Flying Lotus album, You’re Dead!, was most represented, but there were also selections from its two predecessors, 2012’s Until the Quiet Comes (opener “Getting There”) and 2010’s Cosmogramma (“Computer Face/Pure Being” and “Pickled”). He also threw in a couple of songs he’d produced for others (Kendrick Lamar’s “Wesley’s Theory” and Thundercat’s “Friend Zone”) and a pair of non-album tracks: “Between Friends,” from 2012, and the brand new single “Post Requisite.” (The latter, of course, will likely turn up on the next FlyLo album.)

All of it sounded throbbing, convulsive, and effective. (Maybe too effective—a friend I attended the show with barely made it a half-hour; the sub-bass overpowered his sensitive hearing.) The tracks’ low end melted in as many directions as the visuals pivoted. And the images were impressive throughout, whether whizzing goblin sprites chasing FlyLo’s helium diva samples or animated lumberjacks chopping one another’s heads off with axes. A menacing green man (actually FlyLo himself) played like a Chris Cunningham video (think of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker”), while a ghostly pale blue floating tissue made me half expect Stevie Nicks to materialize beneath it any minute.

In fact, the screen looked just as good with the 3D glasses off—there was less depth, but the foggier fractals weren’t all that much less clear. Occasionally, FlyLo would pick up the mic to say, “Minneapolis!” or to compliment the club’s sound system, and by the end he was talking regularly. Rather than finish neatly, the producer made an “encore” by tossing off more music and over some of the visuals he’d already shown us. “See you next year!” he said cheerfully before leaving the stage. Either he’s going to expand the show or, better yet, he’ll have a new album to tour—preferably with a similar setup to this one.

Notes on the opener: Caught the second half of PBDY. Specifically, I saw him trigger a fusillade of generic vaguely menacing drill beats alternating with/laid under gothic organ-like drones and screeches, while gesticulating like he was shooting and being shot, among other things. It was embarrassing to watch.

The crowd: Every beard length you can imagine.

Critic’s bias: 3D, as a rule, is pretty fucking stupid.

Random notebook dump: Well, somebody likes Tron.