Thundercat’s intergalactic funk takes flight

Thundercat2Photos by James Nagel // Written by Kevin Quandt

Thundercat with Real Magic and The Seshen
The Independent – San Francisco
Novemeber 13th, 2013

So, most guys born in the early 80’s automatically think of Lion-O, Tygra and WilyKat when they hear the word Thundercat, and though those cats were pretty radical, they don’t quite thrill the adult-in-me as much as the bass playing namesake. Children’s cartoon comparisons aside, Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, brought the progressive space-funk to the Independent in a very big way. A chilly fall evening didn’t stop the incredibly diverse crowd from showing up early and staying till the last note.

Direct support to Thundercat was handled by Oakland’s own Real Magic. Yes, another live producer who sings, but this one brings something a little different to the table. Though Real Magic did have an large array of mixers and synths on hand, it was his singing that tended to be the emphasis in this performance. He occasionally strapped on a guitar, but it didn’t add a whole ton to the amalgam already being pumped from various digital sources. Luckily, Real Magic represented a decent variety of sounds; from Matthew Dear-inspired microhouse to higher BPM takes on jungle music. Expect to hear more from this Bay Area producer as he starts to gain more fans and play larger rooms.


Thundercat is truly a chameleon. Whether it’s a past stint as drummer for punk outfit Suicidal Tendencies or as studio session cat for the likes of Snoop Dogg and Erykah Badu, Stephen Bruner cannot be confined to one direction. Some folks might know his name from his production/DJ persona, too, but it’s the fully live setting that he shines as a leader, writer and performer. The trio cruised out, and the first thing the crowd noticed was the gargantuan 6-string bass attached to the headliner. At times it looked, even sounded, more like a sitar than a bass guitar.

Once tuned up, the band launched into the space odyssey entitled “Daylight”, which stretched well past it’s studio length as Bruner flexed his chops as his phalanges danced up and down the exaggerated fretboard. The occasional lyrics were smoothly crooned out as the frontman repeated phrases like, “Open up your mind.” Other song highlights included a take off his latest release Apocalypse, that goes by the name “Lotus and the Jondy”. Bruner wasn’t the only talented member gracing the stage, because his band had serious chops, especially the touring drummer who had a nice little solo in the previous song. “We’ll Die” is a heavy-themed song that relies heavily on Thundercats’ soaring vocals. Subject matter in the lyrics tends to run the gamut of subjects, but no subject is off limits, whether it’s casual drug use or the loss of a dear friend and fellow musician (“A Message for Austin”).


Though the songs are stellar, it was musicianship that was the headline for this evening. The arrangements were very complex and masterfully played as the majority of those in attendance were more into gawking at the chops than moving their dancing feet. Hell, there were segments that were almost too fast to move your feet to. The jazziness of the playing might have caught some ‘first-timers’ off guard, but it was a pleasure to this writer who couldn’t help but hear some comparisons to progressive funk acts like Garaj Mahal. The keyboard player was a master at pitch shifting his notes, which added to the overall feeling of the music taking flight, basically orbiting in deep space. “Oh Sheit It’s X” would close the show as Bruner wanted to do his best leaving the crowd enthused, maybe even euphoric on a chilly Wednesday.



  1. Damn, I knew I should’ve went to this over Cults. Dope photos James!

  2. Mortimer Foghorn says:

    That review has me promising not to miss the next chance to see them


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