Thundercat and Khruangbin Bring Cool Breeze to Austin

I feel bad for the people at the Khruangbin show that weren’t Thundercat fans. I feel bad in part, of course, because they aren’t Thundercat fans. That’s just a questionable life choice. But I mostly feel bad for them because he never introduced himself by his stage name; he opted only to call himself by his government name, Stephen Bruner. How would they be able to find his music without knowing what he calls himself?

He began his set with several cuts from his latest album, It Is What It Is, including “Dragonball Durag” and “Overseas.” Notable and unfortunate was the Zack Fox no-show.

In fact, almost every song he played was from his most recent record, aside from the last three tracks. Dr. Bruner rewarded the audience with “Black Gold,” a cut from Flying Lotus’s album, Yasuke

Next was “Lone Wolf and Cub” a tongue-in-cheek ballad which evolved into an impressive and indefatigable bass solo. The track hails from his 2015 album The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam, and he stuck with that album on his fitting finale: perhaps his most well-known track, “Them Changes.” The crowd went wild when he walked on stage and didn’t stop until long after he was gone, so maybe my trepidations regarding those struggling with Google were misplaced. Thundercat’s fans were out in force that night.

Photos by Brendan Kirk

For those who have never been to Germania Insurance Amphitheater, think Red Rocks, but no rocks. Just a nice outdoor venue with a cool breeze coming in from the west. Maybe the wind was due to the topography and architecture of the venue. Maybe it was the gods giving us a slight reprieve from the hellish Austin summer as the triple-digit temps begin to wane.

The sun was setting as Thundercat finished his last song, and the stagehands came rushing out to build Khruangbin’s stage. Their set designers must have been hard at work building a set that featured an elevated drumkit from which DJ would work, a catwalk, and various lights of all shapes, sizes, and strengths. Similarly sedulous was their stylist, for the main set, and for the encore which had bassist Laura Lee rocking out in a sparkling red dress that looked like it was made out of confetti.

Photos by Brendan Kirk

When the band came out, the ovation seemed never-ending with some fifteen-thousand fans cheering them on. They played tracks from their two latest records, Con Todo el Mundo and Mordechai. They even managed to rip a ten-minute mid-set hip-hop medley, including “Electric Relaxation” by A Tribe Called Quest and “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre amongst many others. 

The mix was superb, the bass was intoxicating, the guitar was groovy, and the percussion was masterful. Every time Laura and/or Mark traipsed out onto the catwalk, people lost their goddamn minds. And then, abruptly, they left…

A handful of minutes later, they came back out in new garb, and Laura and Mark were clutching new instruments. The encore was fairly long, and they played one of their hits, “People Everywhere (Still Alive),” before transitioning into a brief cover of “What is Love” by Haddaway, before again transitioning into a cover of “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” by Crystal Waters (also covered by my boy Tom Misch). 

Photos by Brendan Kirk

In a strange way, it felt like they had been playing one continuous song the entire night, seamlessly moving from one to the next. And when they left the stage, for good this time, Mark turned to the crowd and said, “Thank you, Austin, Texas! We’re Khruangbin, from Houston, Texas!”

Mark ends the night with some Texas love

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