The term listening party has always thrown me off. It’s almost a tease in the name itself – sometimes they’re cool experiences, other times they’re not as cool as they’re made out to be, maybe due to the host wanting a large turnout just so they can guarantee they’ll have a line that stretches around the block.
Last night, in the dead center of mid-city Los Angeles, a part of town that’s smudged between downtown and West Hollywood, there was a different kind of listening party experience. It was an apt choice to host the party in a somewhat forgotten part of town that often gets lost in the city’s shadow, in a neighborhood that’s an amalgamation of every nationality of Los Angeles. It’s a location that ironically fits the vibe of Flying Lotus’s music, be it that his sounds are a result of all the influences and textures of the city he’s from.
Held in the backyard of the Underground Museum, guests were greeted at the entrance with a freeform speaking David Lynch projected on loop, and, of course, a pair of 3D glasses. The backyard was divided into three sections, the main area being covered in rugs, blankets, and pillows situated in front of what would become a large 3D screen. Also in the yard was a memorial for Nipsey Hussle, in which gatherers could light a candle a place it beneath a picture of him.
As the night progressed, one could see some familiar faces walking among the crowd: Sofia Boutella of Gaspar Noe’s Climax, bassist Flea, and Lakeith Stanfield of Atlanta and Sorry to Bother You, among others, all gathering in the small lawn shoulder-to-shoulder to witness Flamagra, the first new LP from Flying Lotus in five years. One could even see the man himself wandering around the lawn greeting guests with a Dracula-like purple cape on.
But for a few hours in that backyard, it’s as if the walls of personality and ego came down, everyone gathering to witness what could be a very spiritual experience. Once the opening track faded in overhead through the speakers, the 3D visuals dissolved in on screen – it was our cue to put on glasses, as everyone got situated.
What happened for the next hour-plus was reminiscent of his recent 3D tour, with visuals that featured a forward moving motion that continually traveled inward and inward within the screen, making it a naturally fitting accompaniment with the genre-spanning new record. While his last album, 2014’s You’re Dead!, explored the psychedelic experience of what happens to us when we die through cosmic jazz, Flamagra feels like getting lost when you’re denied entry through St. Peter’s gates. Encapsulating many elements of different genres, from orchestral to what feels like old-school hip-hop, and featuring guest spots from legends like Herbie Hancock and David Lynch, it feels very much like a different beast made up of anachronistic elements from various timelines, justifying the steampunk machine that’s featured on the album’s artwork.
But what made it such a psychedelic experience was how unifying it was. People letting down their personal space to gather and lounge around to enjoy something totally out of this world. There have been many listening parties before, but none as personal and open than this one last night.