Anyone who looked into the Flying Lotus in 3D show prior to the event knew they were in for an experience unlike anything they’d ever seen before. But the midweek Joy Theater event ultimately unfolded in a slightly different fashion when the headlining artist shut down his highly-anticipated show mid-set. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed.
A Strong Showing From Opening Acts
The night kicked off strong. L.A. native and DJ/producer PBDY, from Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, started off the night, followed by L.A.-based producer and songwriter Seven Davis, Jr. Both delivered nod-worthy sets to the steadily growing Joy Theater crowd as the evening carried on.
But the third act of the night, So-So Topic out of Dallas, may have been the crowd favorite of the event. After a few songs delivered in a more spoken-word format, So-So Topic was joined onstage by fellow Dallas-based rapper KoolQuise. The duo rapped together and hyped each other for several tracks, and during one, Quise freestyled using words the crowd provided. Suggestions ranged from “diaper” and “stage light” to “orange,” the rapper’s favorite and proclaimed most-challenging word to rhyme.
Finally, PBDY took the stage again for one last ethereal 20-minute set as Flying Lotus finished setting up, which was a smart move and perfect segue into the headlining act. FlyLo then took the podium, a curious rock formation that was the only part of the physical onstage setup. Everything else would be handled by projectors and the screen behind him.
Out of This World-Class Performance
Flying Lotus partnered with 3D Live for his tour’s one-of-a-kind 3D visuals, produced by Strangeloop Studios, 3D Live, and Timeboy. The crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the 3D effects first kicked in, and FlyLo joked about how fashionable everyone looked in their 3D glasses—if it was still the 90s.
The visuals themselves were stunning even without multi-dimensional effects, from prismatic liquids drip-dropping from the top of the stage to FlyLo’s own face exploded into kaleidoscopic patterns. Jellyfish tentacles appeared to stretch and dangle over the crowd, and FlyLo skewed depth perception for all attendees as he crafted wiggles and bulges in lines projected behind him. In short, regardless of mind-altering substances, there was no way every attendee wasn’t blown away by the thoughtfulness and quality of the show’s overall visual production.
The music itself also did not disappoint. Moments of heightened energy pulsated through bodies that couldn’t help but move with the exotic, experimental beats. And that’s despite being mesmerized by the visual masterpiece unfolding around them.
In addition to potentially new or otherwise unrecognized tracks, FlyLo also pulled out a handful of favorites to hype up the crowd. These included “Never Catch Me,” featuring recent Voodoo Music + Art Experience headliner Kendrick Lamar, and a number of songs from longtime collaborator Thundercat, with “Them Changes” and “Friend Zone” among them. So-So Topic also joined FlyLo onstage for a few more lyric-centric tracks.
…And Then Some Not-So-Zodiac Sh*t
However, from early on in the set, Flying Lotus would periodically reference sound issues he was having onstage. His chief complaints seemed to stem from not being able to hear himself through his monitor and his setup being incorrectly routed in a way that projected sound in mono rather than stereo.
Honestly, had he not mentioned it, much of the crowd was so blown away by the overall production of the music and visuals together that they may have never noticed any problems. But for an artist who clearly put endless time, thought, and energy into his performance, the struggle was an understandably frustrating one. FlyLo’s impatience over the sound complications steadily and noticeably heightened over time. Still, many in the crowd, including event organizers, said Flying Lotus had produced one of the—if not the—best shows they’d seen. Possibly ever.
Flying Lotus’s repeated references to the sound and his flabbergasted expressions, scoffs, and signals offstage to sound guys began to intensify. His exasperation reached a pinnacle point when certain attempted audio effects cut to total silence because of the wiring arrangement, and he stopped the show entirely. Joy Theater employees began trying to figure out what was going on both off and onstage, and the lights eventually came on.
Flying Lotus gradually lost patience with the employees onstage, telling them to “Go home,” and saying to the crowd, “I’m sorry, y’all—this isn’t my fault.” His irritation erupted in full force after he discovered someone had changed something on his computer while trying to fix the sound. Several patrons left, while others stayed despite the confusion and awkward tension hanging heavily in the air.
From FlyLo to High-Low
For an attendee, it was that painful crash and burn of going from a soaring high to a plummeting low so quickly. If the show hadn’t been as incredible as it was—until it, well, wasn’t—the sudden shock of having that experience ripped away may not have been as disappointing. The vibes had, only moments before, been something very much on another “Astral Plane,” only to have the wind collectively knocked out of the entire room.
At moments, it seemed more like a dream. Thoughts of, “This isn’t actually happening, right?” routinely punctuated any play-by-play observation of the events as they unfolded onstage. Like a prank that went too far. But unfortunately, the de-escalation of the night was very much real and disheartening for every party involved, from the artists and organizers to the attendees themselves.
In a last-ditch effort, the lights dimmed once more, and Flying Lotus offered to play a beat he said he had just created. “Or I’ll just play iTunes,” he said to the crowd, who cheered enthusiastically in response. But after working on his computer a few moments, FlyLo stopped once more. He explained to the crowd that the track was playing, the output was going, but we couldn’t hear it, as we should have been able to in that moment. With that, he gave up, stormed offstage, and the lights came on again for real.
After the lights turned up, most of the crowd—those who hadn’t already left during the squabble—began to file out and close their tabs. Facial expressions ranged from annoyed to amused as attendees exchanged theories about what happened and who or what was really to blame.
Avoiding the Blame Game
Based on perspectives from both sides, it seems that every party could have handled the situation better. One side claims the venue’s sound crew was unprofessional and uncaring, even after FlyLo first brought the issues to light. This, one backstage source claimed, occurred even after the situation began deteriorating further into full-blown show interruption.
But according to another source involved in producing the event, the headlining artist was not present for a full soundcheck. A proper soundcheck may have caught some of the issues experienced onstage during the set.
And regardless of what’s going on onstage, showing respect to venue employees, sound engineers, and fellow humans should always be paramount, for attendees and artists alike.
It should also be said that unlike other tiffs in recent EDM industry headlines, this gaffe was not splattered across social media by the artist, organizers, or attendees. This was no Carnage v. deadmau5 scenario, to be sure. But too often, uninformed opinions begin dominating the online and smoke-break conversations surrounding the electronic dance music scene. So, the restraint (for once) was commendable, on all sides.
All in all, Flying Lotus in 3D at The Joy Theater really was one of the craziest music productions I’ve ever seen—twice. For better. And for worse.
But bottom line, the experience’s ending was only as sour as it was because the show itself was so damn sweet before the tables had turned.
Photos by Finn Turnbull