Todd C. Roberts
Photo by Lee Shaner
It’s unexpected to see Thom Yorke perform in a dive-bar setting, but this past Wednesday night wasn’t like any other night in recent memory at Low End Theory, L.A.’s premier venue for cutting-edge electronic/bass sounds. In fact, Low End has recently become known for surprise guests as diverse as Odd Future and DJ Muggs in addition to regulars like Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus. But getting Thom Yorke to spin pretty much takes the cake!
That the enigmatic Radiohead singer might appear seemed a possibility when Flying Lotus posted a Facebook message this past Tuesday, saying not to miss Low End Theory “Thomorrow”; by mid-day Wednesday, the rumor that Yorke might play was in full flame on Twitter. In addition to the residents, the only artist actually advertised on the bill was local O.C. outfit Feeding People, whose debut album was recently produced by Low End homey Free The Robots and who played a storming set of psych-rock sounds following Yorke – a refreshingly unusual choice given Low End’s usual electronic/DJ context. Free The Robots played a great, unannounced set as well, but the crowd was clearly there to see Yorke, whom even Low End founder Daddy Kev wasn’t sure was going to make it. That possibility didn’t deter the around-the-block line of club-goers from waiting to see their hero, however.
Eventually Radiohead’s resident beat head turned up, though, heading straight to the stage where he commanded the decks to a roaring house. Yorke started playing around 11pm, with his collaborator and friend Flying Lotus rocking by his side like an avant-garde hype man. Yorke’s instincts proved correct in moving the eclectic crowd, pleasing the Low End faithful with everything from rap to techno, tropicalia to electro-dancehall. It was an epic night and a masterful stroke of good will and PR , leaving regular patrons agog and new friends with their minds blown that the Radiohead main man himself would possibly be amongst them. The reality actually paid off well beyond the actual promise – props must ultimately go to Low End, who have raised the bar for potential mind blowing yet again, proving this scene remains as vital as ever.