Scenes From Friday Night’s Red Bull Sound Select Show With Thundercat.
If there was a theme to Friday night’s Red Bull Sound Select showcase at Three Links, it was one of challenging performances.
All three artists on the bill — headliner Thundercat, local emcee -topic and Austin producer Roger Sellers — were intent on pushing the limits of their respective genres at this show. And, for its part, the crowd was more than eager to have its own boundaries expanded.
Then again, the point could also be made that standing in lines was the real theme of this January show that, yes, we curated. As impossible as the prospect of locking down a precious square foot of standing room inside of Three Links’ 200-capacity room seemed given the high RSVP count to this concert, enough folks braved the 40-degree weather of the night along Elm Street and all the way down to the 7-Eleven at the end of the block regardless — and many even remained there long after most would have given up hope.
For those lucky enough to make it inside, though, any inconvenience would prove well worth it. We’re guessing very few people left without having at least one perception changed.
For us, that happened during Sellers’ opening set, where the multi-instrumentalist aggressively challenged the concept of what it means to be a quote-unquote DJ. Where does that distinction end? When Sellers began beating on toms along with his mostly pre-produced tracks? When he began singing and dancing around like a wonderfully engaging goofball? Whether folks tended to buy in to the many “Roger Sellers Is Not a DJ” stickers that now plaster the venue, he certainly opened a dialogue.
Likewise, -topic stepped his game up for this show, too. The biggest difference for the Dallas rapper at this performance, of course, was the fact that he was joined by a live backing band called Mixed Magyk for this one. Flashing influences of R&B and subtle notes of jazz, the outfit capably followed -topic’s every lyrical turn, at one point going half tempo while the emcee dropped his voice an octave, mimicking the effect of a DJ dropping the BPMs. At another point, they replicated the sample from Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” that -topic then rhymed over. He was equal parts energetic and charismatic from the moment he hopped onstage until he dived off and walked out the back door, leaving the band to finish its last instrumental number alone. But never did the collective rile up the crowd more than its balls-out cover of the Pokemon theme. More than anything, -topic’s set made perhaps the best case yet that hip-hop acts belong on more non-hip-hop bills in this town. Not surprisingly, we’ve already seen his name pop-up alongside indie and punk acts on at least two more bills in the next month.
Still, it was when virtuoso bassist Thundercat took the stage that minds were truly blown. Playing his six-string bass more like a guitar — or hell, maybe even a piano? — than a typical four-string bass, Thundercat created a sonic palate that kind of defied description. Joined by just a keyboard player and drummer, the trio dabbled in pop, soul and R&B as filtered through some pretty avant jazz influences. If we had to put it into words, we’d say his material sounded like if Victor Wooten musically masturbated over the coolest, unreleased Hall & Oates b-side of all time — and then Squarepusher came along and remixed the whole thing.
Or maybe not ? Like most folks at Three Links on Friday, we weren’t quite sure what we were hearing, just that our horizons were rapidly expanding and that we desperately wanted more of it.
Whether we quite understood what we were seeing, there’s one thing that’s certain: It was a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
All photos by Karlo X. Ramos.