Baked New Years Day @ The Bakery, Perth (01/01/2011)

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If you thought it seemed impossible to have Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, Hudson Mohawke, DāM-FunK and Harmonic 313 all on the same bill, two nights in a row starting on New Year’s Eve, in sleepy Perth of all places, then you were right. But only just. Unfortunately, a broken foot meant that Hudson Mohawke (or Hudson Nowalke as The Bakery’s publicists re-named him) was unable to be a part of what seemed to be modern dance music’s answer to the NBA All-Star Game.

Around 10pm, Mark Pritchard aka Harmonic 313 ventured onto stage and kick-started proceedings on a decidedly Afrobeat note with Kyenkyen bi adi m’awu by renowned Ghanaian singer K. Frimpong. From there, Pritchard made a smooth transition into Afro-Cuban territory before working his way through some UK hip-hop and into some of his original works, including some numbers off his well-received 2008 Warp Records release, When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence.

Pritchard’s music invoked plenty of head-nodding from the appreciative and ever-growing crowd, but his unassuming presence onstage resulted in an earlier than expected appearance from Gaslamp Killer. Grabbing the mike, GLK implored the crowd to move closer and express their gratitude for Pritchard more loudly. That seemed to do the trick and, along with the many positive reports from GLK’s last couple of visits to Perth, resulted in a large crowd when GLK took over the decks just after 11pm.

For those who were unsure what the man with wild curly hair dressed in a singlet, shorts and hiking boots would bring to the night’s musical festivities, it didn’t take long for the answer to emerge: hard rock, electro, hip hop and everything in between. Starting off with new music from the latest Stones Throw poster boy, Dimlite, GLK threw in Chevy Chase vocals from Caddyshack, classic Hendrix riffs, Iggy and The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog, Japanese pop and Turkish metal. And that was just within the first 20 minutes.

Frequently jumping on the mike to ensure the crowd was keeping up with his cracking pace, GLK then wheeled out an electro reworking of Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place, a couple of tracks from dubstep heavyweight Joker and some stilted rhythms courtesy of Jon Wayne. One of 2010’s breakthrough artists, James Blake, also got a spin, before the quirky man from California finished off his set right where he started, deep in leftfield, with a haunting number by legendary film composer Ennio Morricone. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe what was an incredibly diverse and entertaining set.

Following Gaslamp Killer on the bill was Los Angeles’ self-proclaimed ‘Ambassador of Funk’, DāM-FunK. Channelling Stevie Wonder with his dark shades and slicked back hair, and showcasing his extensive back catalogue of tunes from the New York boogie scene of the early 1980s, the man known as Damon G. Riddick to his mother locked the crowd into a soul-electro funk-fest.

Featuring tracks from his 2009 album Toeachizown, as well as more obscure numbers such as Prefab Sprout’s ‘I Love Music’, DāM-FunK proved himself to be a bundle of energy, singing, DJing and even breaking out the keytar for a couple of songs. In hindsight, it probably would have worked better having DāM-FunK open or close the night’s musical proceedings, given that his work is of a more downtempo, laid-back nature, but then again there were many punters for whom DāM-FunK was the highlight of the evening.

And so to the undisputed star of the show. The man of the electronic moment, Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus. A lengthy interval between the end of DāM-FunK’s set and the start of FlyLo’s live show raised some concerns, although the gap was adequately filled by some more tunes from the indefatigable GLK.

When FlyLo finally emerged onstage, the mystery was suddenly revealed: the man’s hard drive had crashed earlier in the day and he had been working overtime to put together a new and fresh set in “approximately 2.3 hours”. With just the slightest of grins, FlyLo added that he didn’t mind taking an experimental approach to music. Touché indeed.

And experimental it was. Playing live with the Brunner brothers (being Ronald Brunner Jr. on the drums and Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Brunner on the bass), FlyLo seemed to take a perverse delight in the spontaneity of it all. At one stage he laughingly declared to the audience that neither Brunner brother had even heard the next track that they were about to play.

But FlyLo had used those 2.3 hours wisely, ensuring that the set also contained tracks for those in the audience who wanted something recognisable. Zodiac Shit, off last year’s Cosmogramma record, was the first track to receive a roar of recognition from the audience, whilst later references to the 1983 and Los Angeles releases were also rewarded with plenty of cheer.

With the live bass and drums adding muscle to the live sounds of a musician often referred to, somewhat disparagingly, as a ‘laptop musician’, there was no doubt that to witness Flying Lotus in full flight was to witness the workings of a latter-day musical genius.

The NBA All-Star Game may move to a different city each year, but musical titans such as Flying Lotus normally stick to the big cities on large nights of the year such as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. On that basis, a massive shout-out must go to Artrage, the {move} crew and everyone else who was involved in bring such a high-calibre line-up to Perth. Who knows, maybe LeBron, Kobe & co. will follow suit one day.

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