In less than a decade, Thundercat has progressed from being an in-demand bassist for the likes of Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus and the crossover thrash-metal band Suicidal Tendencies to a headlining superstar. In early March, he brought his instrumental virtuosity, charming stage persona and nearly unclassifiable songs to Washington, D.C.’s U Street Music Hall, performing for a vivacious crowd in support of his newly released third full-length, Drunk (Brainfeeder). The 32-year-old player, singer and producer, born Stephen Bruner, reconfigured his songs into hyperkinetic yet focused exploratory vehicles that blended influences from late-’70s jazz-fusion, funk, punk, electronica and confessional soul.
Still, the fiery musicianship didn’t get in the way of the songs, as Thundercat’s vaporous falsetto delivered favorites like the angst-ridden “Heartbreaks + Setbacks,” the equally emotive “Them Changes” and the daffily escapist “Lotus and the Jondy.” Thundercat, drummer Justin Brown and keyboardist Dennis Hamm had the packed club under their cosmic spell. Many concertgoers sang along to Thundercat’s personal, even quizzical lyrics, on new material like the vengeful “Friend Zone” and “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II),” a loopy ode to his cat.