Sight Beyond Sight: THUNDERCAT Live @ Barboza [Seattle]


Seattle, Wa


n. pl. a·nom·a·lies

1. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.

2. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify:

Last month, Thundercat roared into Seattle‘s Barboza to promote his newly released 2nd album, ApocalypseHe took the audience on a 90-minute psychedelic jazz fusion trip imbued with his futuristic R&B and hiphop’d electronica.  But the truth about Thundercat is that he is a genuine anomaly.

Born Stephen Bruner, the bass virtuoso has made music with such diverse acts as Snoop Dogg, Suicidal Tendencies, Erykah Badu, and his spiritual soul brother/ Brainfeeder Records label-mate, Flying LotusThundercat‘s solo music, however, is a hybrid with so many influences that it eschews any convention–exploding and reinventing himself with each left turn that any individual song is capable of taking.  His albums are some kind of future soul-hop with elements of jazz and electronica.  His palette is so diverse that they defy labels; each song must be viewed as it’s own independent creation.

Thundercat‘s minimalist trio featured his older brother, grammy winner Ronald Bruner, Jr., on drums, and his younger brother, Jameel Bruner (on his first tour), manning the keyboards.  The Bruners‘ father is an accomplished musician in his own right, a former drummer with The Temptations and a number of other famous Motown artists.  One realizes that their musical synergy is a unique hybrid of family history and a collective evolution of combining various influences in modern day Los Angeles.

Thundercat-2Those folks expecting the live act to consist of copycat versions of the songs from his records would be sorely disappointed, as Thundercat simplified it all into a trio that dove into the depths of classic ’70s jazz fusion.  Much of the set was a showcase of Bruner’s mighty licks and bass technique.  At times, his bass tones and playing sounded like legendary jazz bassist, Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever, George Duke) involved in a steel cage match with Bootsy Collins (Parliament-Funkadelic, Praxis).  In the ’70s, fusion introduced a combination of rock, jazz, and funk into a fiery and explosive sound played at breakneck speeds with virtuosic technique.  After two bass solos in Bruner‘s very first song, alone, it was evident that the genre is still alive and well.

His new tracks feature more singing and give his ambient sound a lyrical focus that allows the audience to connect with the music in a different way.  A highlight of the show was “DMT Song,” a cut from Flying Lotus2012 release, Until the Quiet Comes, that Thundercat originally played bass on.  In essence, this song is an exploration of humanity on the trip of the infamous psychedelic drug DMT“I can take you to a world where you can spread your wings and fly away,”  the frontman sang, as ambiance rained through the speakers.

Another highlight was the song “Evangelion,” which evokes Eastern philosophy through the trip-hop lens of Bruner‘s psychedelic mind.  In many ways, this track encompasses the very central philosophy of his music and spirit; his sweet soul voice carrying the listener into this tune with an ethereal subtlety.

“It’s superficial the way you listen.
Open your ears and mind
Just take time to look a bit deeper
You’d be surprised what you find inside.”

Thundercat‘s music is a call to expand your mind and go on a  journey through the soul of an artist that defies genre labeling and normality.  Thundercat is his own animal, who shall not be caged or limited.

A pleasant surprise, opening the show was the synth-laden hip-hop group,  Kingdom Crumbs.  Their 4-man crew deftly combined group-party rhyming, hype beats, and even live keyboard playing.  They are serious NW hip hop artists to be on the look out for. Their bass heavy beats were coming through the subs of Barboza with much force.

Playing between sets was J-Justice of local KBCS 91.3 radio.  His electro-soul beats and songs were a perfect way to keep the party live and in effect.  J-Justice‘s legendary City Soul radio show can be heard every Friday night at 9pm.

Anthony Warner

Anthony Warner is a writer, musician, and mechanic for spacecrafts. He loves typewriters, deep soul music, and rump shaking low end bass. Check him out more at

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