Before I earned my right to indulge in one of the most drool-worthy lineups out on the town, I was tasked with choosing a few standout, not-to-miss acts from the third annual Low End Theory Festival. Simple, yes; painless, no. So I made the selection process a little less brutal by restricting my choices to lineup's 'lower end,' excluding LET's prolific residents. So, regardless of the fact that probably none of us will experience a sub-par set today, here are a few names to add to your own personal schedule.
If the extent of your McFerrin know-how ends at Bobby, I offer the audibly effervescent Taylor McFerrin to your ears. While his father reminded us to 'Be Happy,' Taylor's own musical voice pulls us there with a glowing, growing connectedness rampant in both his live and recorded work. Listening to his 2014 Early Riser LP, it's not hard to doubt that an album with such intentional and introspective sound design would pose a problem in real-time execution. Timbres fall from all directions into a multi-textured melange seemingly made for a mind and a small sitting room. Yet each time I've been lucky enough to see Taylor, he has decimated this doubt in a matter of measures. It's partly this consistency and partly his intoxicating improvisations that's attracted the likes of musical mavericks Anderson Paak, Hiatus Kaiyote, and uh, Robert Glasper. Elevation is his name of the game, so don't miss him.
Lady Last on the lineup but foremost to flip the beat scene on its staticky sampled head. Like the philosophy of sampling itself, Linafornia both reveres and propels musical cues from the likes of Madlib, Ras G, and Flying Lotus in her own output. Her Yung debut, released in January on Dome of Doom, carries an incredible amount of self-assuredness that somehow doesn't shy away from vulnerability and inquiry, giving the 31-minute statement impressive staying power. It's the perceptible carefulness in her craft that parallels her alongside the greats and recalls certain characteristics like Dilla's so-called 'obsessiveness' in the creative process. Ideally, we'll find all the answers in her next project -- along with a deeper wave of questions. You really should listen to Yung in its entirety, but for now here's an addicting diddy my neighbors have heard a couple hundred times: 'Wussup' ft. Jack Bastian. If you can (you can), queue the transition into 'Wetttt.'
When Kendrick picks a voice, you understand and trust that voice, no questions. And you don't miss the chance to hear how it operates in person. With Anna Wise ("Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City," "To Pimp a Butterfly") and Dane Orr busy preparing their third album, we can only hope to get a taste of future Sonnymoon sounds on Saturday. The duo's particular musical blend points in the direction of pop music without stepping into dirty territory, holding onto the roots of underground masters from R&B to acid to trip hop to all of their derivatives. They have a history of collaborating with many of the lineup's other artists (Teebs, Gonjasufi, McFerrin), so who knows what we can expect to see on stage tomorrow.
Plus we hear they have a tendency to cover Thom Yorke, which is automatic brownie points.
If samples of British philosophers spouting ancient Eastern wisdom is your weakness, it's in your better interest to be at Mono/Poly tomorrow. If not, I'll happily namedrop Kendrick once again. Since his Brainfeeder debut in 2011, the frequent Thundercat collaborator ("Golden Skies," "The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam," "untitled unmastered.") has blessed his home state of California and the world with his varied book of sound characters. In his discography, one track-character swiftly metamorphoses into another, then another, and another, with a convincingness that begs to be tested under live circumstances. Prepare to find your mind melding to many different places in very minimal measures.
"Never trust someone who always smiles," reads Gonjasufi's totally non-official, totally parodic Twitter account. This, in a nutshell, is Gonjasufi's musical mantra and a swift slap to the whitestripped grins of LA fakers. In an ego-saturated art economy set on glorifying the self and brushing real issues under the rug, Gonjasufi is hardly shy in calling out selfie-posting, so-called artists that he sees as contributions to escalating problems. His musical sermons arise in his ability to trigger emotions typically avoided in commercial genres. Those that have heard his new album assure us that Callus, due out via Warp on August 19th, is an artistic and social solution desperately needed in today's often incomprehensible times. I can only anticipate that such an opus will make an even stronger statement on stage.
Saturday, July 23rd
Shrine Expo Hall and Grounds
The third annual Low End Theory Festival follows two sold-out years and celebrates Low EndTheory's 500th club event, which was reached earlier in May.