Thundercat – The Triffid

Thundercat – The Triffid

Written by Harry Bain

Photos by Travers Southwell


It was a more chilly than usual evening at the Triffid in Brisbane, as a very mixed crowd lined up for Thundercat’s second Australian show of his worldwide 2018 tour.

The last time Thundercat made his way to Brisbane was back in 2016 for St Jerome’s Laneway festival which I regretfully missed. Back then I wasn’t well acquainted with Thundercat’s work, outside of the fact that he had worked with Kendrick Lamar in the past. I had heard from friends that he put on a good show back at Laneway so I was looking forward to hearing a live performance from him first hand.

Doors opened at 8pm into the Triffid’s live room; a modest but spacious relocated aircraft hangar which was filled with smoke and illuminated by blue, green and purple spot lights. A semi-relaxed, funky DJ set with remixes of Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar kept the crowd entertained for about an hour until Thundercat took to the stage.

Thundercat appeared with pink hair and dressed in a dark robe; the image complete with his comically massive orange Ibanez six-string bass. His band consisted of Justin Brown on drums and Dennis Hamm on keys, who later both proved themselves a marvelous accompaniment to Thundercat’s insane stage presence.


From the get-go the show had an energy and pace that was honestly mesmerising. Thundercat’s fingers moved up and down the frets with ease, his six-string bass giving him the ability to play it like an electric guitar and his pedalboard helping to produce sounds that were completely unexpected. One second the guitar sounded like a bass, the next it was a keyboard and the next it was something else that who knows what. The sound of his guitar was something I have never experienced and there were moments where my brain struggled to comprehend the crescendo of noises that were coming out of it. Thundercat and his band were focused and energised, the opening song Captain Stupido was a statement of things to come – Brown playing the drums unbelievably fast, it’s deformed cymbals an indicator that he was serious business and Hamm playing two keyboards simultaneously as if it were nothing.


Bus In These Streets started off a bit slower, Thundercats voice is smooth like caramel and his bass notes were much cleaner here. The band then transitioned into If These Walls Could Talk by Kendrick Lamar, a clear shout-out to Thundercat’s good friend who he collaborated with on Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly.

Tron Song was a kaleidoscope of sounds, with Thundercat smiling and dancing around the stage as he plays, you can tell this man loves what he does. The trio seem to be on their own journeys with this one, Brown and Hamm play so intensely that one could think there was a drum and keyboard solo happening simultaneously. Everyone is having such a good time on stage and they all seem to be doing their own thing but somehow it just works. It was amazing to me that a lot of what was happening on stage seemed to be improvised. Thundercat, Brown and Hamm each feed off one another with each song held together by the lyrics and a bass line, apart from that it seems like one big jam between good friends. Thundercat laughs as he delivers the final line – “Don’t you worry about me”.


Justin Brown drums like a contortionist in Song for the Dead and punchy, acidic basslines follow in a rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s Complexion featuring a fantastic solo which saw Thundercat bathed in a angelic blue spotlight as if he was some kind of bassist from heaven.

Show You The Way had everyone singing along and Them Changes brought along its exceptionally funky bassline that had us all moving. Thundercat treats every song like a challenge, like he’s playing guitar hero on the hardest difficulty. I can’t believe how fast he moves his hands and yet it sounds so tight and flawless.

When it was finally time to go Thundercat said goodbye and left the stage before returning for one more song with Lotus and the Jondy and an excerpt from A Message For Austin, a tribute to his late friend Austin Peralta.

The show ran for an hour and a half which completely flew by. Thundercat and his band had a stage presence and confidence that left me begging for more. It was a fantastic display of talent from a man who many describe as a bass virtuoso, and now I see why.

Written by Harry Bain

Photos by Travers Southwell