Thundercat Turns the Funk Up at Tipitina’s

From the get go, the room was blanketed with layers of smoke thanks to the machines running on stage and the people lighting up cigarettes in the crowd. Every light and laser was a thick beam of color. Friday evening, people lined up outside of Tipitina’s to see Thundercat perform.

Music looped overhead through giant speakers bolted to the ceiling in the beginning, but once it faded and the lights in the room turned to dim flecks in the smoke, people were ready for a party.

PBDY, pronounced “Peabody,” strolled out and assumed control of one of the live rigs sitting on the stage. He hyped the crowd up for six or seven tracks of Electronic Body Music and introduced the next artist, Saco & Uno. The Los Angeles-based Japanese artist put on a memorable performance. He seamlessly blended his DJ’ing with rapping and playing a keyboard synth — the guy made his MacBook sing. PBDY soon came back out soon and played until it was time for a final stage check before Thundercat.

Around 10:30 p.m., the lights all dimmed for a second time and the crowd knew what that meant. “Rabbot Ho” began playing while the room was still dark, and the crowd was lit before the stage could be. Thundercat stood center-stage, and from his pink dreads to the bright yellow tassels on the ends of his shorts, all the way down to his tie-dye metallic Chuck Taylors, Thundercat looked ready to get the crowd dancing.

In between the first two songs of the set, Thundercat asked, “Y’all ready to go down a rabbit hole?” The overhead speakers pumped energy into the crowd. With every beat of the kick drum or snap of a low bass string, the ground shook and the crowd danced harder.

After the first handful of songs, Thundercat took a moment to introduce the members of his band. The four-piece power cell included keys, electric violin and a drum kit with more toms and crashes than most players would ever use at once. Thundercat called out each of his colleagues and then introduced himself as Mac Demarco.

For the latter half of his performance, Thundercat strayed away from his recent release, “Drunk,” to play some of his older pieces. As the show grooved on, the air in the room smelled more like spilled alcohol and tasted more like pot smoke. Most likely for that very reason, the first wipeout of the night happened right as the band got through the intro to “Tron Song.” A gap appeared in the crowd as one audience member hit the ground. She was helped to the bathroom and taken care of, but the dancing didn’t stop.

Thundercat’s nimble flourishes on his six-string bass riffed along with the snapping of the snare drum, rumble of the toms and crushing blow of the kick drum. The crazy lights, super sound system and sheer talent of the performers brought the music to life. The call and response between the performers during free-form sections of music sounded like instruments laughing, shouting and having good conversation.

The crowd briefly cleared a path while continuing to move with the music. At about 11:45 p.m., the set was coming to a close. The band vamped the ending of the final song and thanked the crowd for coming out. Thundercat also thanked whoever’s Birkenstock ended up on stage.

The crowd cheered to thank Thundercat for his performance and chanted for an encore. The band came back out and closed the show for good with “Oh Sheit It’s X.” The 80’s synth-pop whining of the keyboards and the clap of the snare drum got every head nodding and just as many feet tapping.

By then it was midnight. The sweaty, dancing crowd was feeling the music. The lights painted the walls, the air and the audience deep, vivid colors. The band jammed the ending of the song and repeated a line from the chorus that every groovy, tired, dancing body in the room was thinking: “Your purse is nice, baby, is it leather? Or could it be suede? … Oh, shit, I’m fucked up.”

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