Stephen Bruner, also known as Thundercat, has contributed to our modern culture in forms of jazz, punk, hip-hop, soul, and funk. His impressive collaborations with Erykah Badu, Taylor McFerrin, Flying Lotus, and Kendrick Lamar , just to name a few, now extend in his new album Drunk to Wiz Khalifa, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Pharrell Williams. His performance at Wonder Ballroom last month was a glimpse into why he continues to headline sold out international tours.
The opener was no other than Stephen Bruner’s confessed inspiration for the new album, Zach Fox. Catching only the last bit of his well, bit, I chuckled while he described some of his favorite songs that also happened to be his parent’s choice of music during seduction. Asking an audience member if we “even got rap here”, he continued in making fun of Portland for being a largely white area. He played some music, picked more fun at the privileged lives we live in this era, and attempted to pump the quiet audience up for the headlining act.
Stephen approached the stage shortly after Zach’s departure, welcoming a venue full of fans of all cultures and ages. Given the recent political climate, I expected Thundercat to articulate his concerns but instead offered words of community, kindness, and hope. His soft demeanor and kindness exuded through his vocals as he improvised through his new tracks “Friend Zone”, “Wolf + Cub”, and “Them Changes”. Key player Dennis Hamm’s fingers effortlessly floating across the entire keyboard a million times over as Justin Brown’s deliberate, exact strumming ignited a fire in all of our hearts. “Lotus and the Jondy” was extended into a lengthy jam session which concluded in Stephen asking the crowd what song to play next. He suddenly realized after a wall of jumbled conversations that his tactic may haven’t been the smartest but dove into “Oh Sheit it’s X” anyway. As the show came to a close, an encore was imminent and we all saw “Daylight”. Detonating a second wave of energy, there wasn’t a still body in the building.
Once again, Thundercat has proven he has so much to share with us and will continue to inspire. Leaving the venue with a sense of completion, the house music switched on the new Tribe Called Quest. Surrounded by positive energy, I walked away playing a mental recap of one of the best performances I experienced in years.