Live: Thom Yorke and Flying Lotus perform surprise DJ set at Low End Theory
Thom Yorke crept into the Low End Theory shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, a few months after he did it the first time. For this sequel, the lines around the Airliner weren't infinite. Nor was the Internet aflame. Until one of the bouncers blew the whistle, no one knew aside from Flying Lotus and the inner sanctum of the Wednesday night weekly.
This translated into practically a private DJ show starring Yorke and Lotus, the chief of the Los Angeles beat scene. If tickets were left to auction online, they'd bring in enough to fund a state Senate campaign. Instead, it was $10 for anyone with the foresight to make it to 2419 North Broadway by 10 p.m.
"Thom Yorke is in the building. Nigel Godrich is in the building. Flying Lotus is in the building. If I were you, I'd move up close," said Daddy Kev, employing unimpeachable logic.
"I don’t know what's about to go on, but I know it's about to go down," said Nocando, rattling off a 64-bar freestyle, eliciting Yorke's applause.
What went down: Flying Lotus setting things off with a dubby dance hall beat. Thom Yorke behind, enigmatic and elfin, bobbing his head slowly. Black vest, gray shirt, long hair tucked behind his ears. The two trade off song by song, like show and tell. Yorke brings tracks that sound like Radiohead songs submerged. No one knows what exactly.
"Reckoner" emerges and so does "Bloom," from Radiohead's most recent "King of Limbs." Thom Yorke is dancing full lotus flower, along with a strut best described as the funky hen. Since his first solo jaunts several years ago, Yorke has completed his evolution from diffident frontman to a master of idiosyncratic groove.
The mixes were as smooth as the moves. There are few things more sublimely strange or meta than watching Thom Yorke DJ his own songs while an entire audience frantically films Thom Yorke DJing his own songs. Lotus and Yorke traded off on turntables with a chemistry that made it unclear who was selecting what.
Ahu's "To Love" breathed easy, as did a never-released alternate Flying Lotus remix of Radiohead. Gonjasufi's "Ancestors" cracked skulls with Yorke pantomiming every word. Lotus dropped "Radicals," from Tyler, The Creator’s just-leaked "Goblin."
A Jaylib track blared, some acid house thumped. Yorke unleashed his secret weapon -- his celestial tendon-tearing croon. While the rapt audience swayed, he let loose a babble of scatting and singing. A seraphic vocal streaked by melancholy.
If his first performance was a show of allegiance and a dazzling parade of his influences, Yorke dug deeper this time. He was noticeably more comfortable and the crowd slightly less star struck. But then, the path to "King of Limbs" led through the Low End Theory’s aesthetic of fractured beats and suffocating bass.
So it was little surprise that twice in the last two months, Yorke has paid the club the ultimate compliment -- with surprise shows rivaling only a certain diminutive Minnesotan whose residency continues Thursday at the Forum.
Or as someone mumbled leaving the club, "How do you top something like that?"
-- Jeff Weiss
Top photo: Thom Yorke (left) and Flying Lotus appear at the Low End Theory in Lincoln Heights on May 4, 2011. Credit: David Bartholow for Gorilla vs. Bear
Bottom photo: Thom Yorke at the Low End Theory. Credit: David Bartholow for Gorilla vs. Bear