Springfest: Set to usher in a new sound with Thundercat and Sango


Thundercat. Photo courtesy of Windish.

Thundercat. Photo courtesy of Windish.
Thundercat. Photo courtesy of Windish.

This year’s Springfest act, renowned bass player and vocalist Thundercat, promises to challenge the Seinfeld theme song bass riff man as the most appreciated bassist in all of our lives. Hailing from Los Angeles, Thundercat’s bass-heavy grooves weave their way across genres with ease and delicacy, and the end product is ethereal. Listeners will most likely recognize his style from To Pimp A Butterfly’s “These Walls,” as his work on this track won him a Grammy earlier this year. In fact, Rolling Stone recently called Thundercat the “creative epicenter” of Lamar’s album. This marks the first time Springfest has ever hosted a Grammy-award-winning artist. If that’s not enough to get you to Shaw field next Saturday, he also went to middle school with Shia LaBeouf.

Thundercat will be headlining on April 23, preceded by the rest of the 2016 Springfest lineup: talented Seattle DJ/producer, Sango; Battle of the Band’s student group, Fidel; and Macalester’s Brazilian drumming ensemble, Zabumba.

With Thundercat, the Macalester community will meet the trio of drummer Justin Brown, pianist Dennis Hamm and, of course, Thundercat (Stephen Bruner). All of these musicians possess masterful abilities on their respective instruments.

Celebrated for his immense talent on the bass guitar, Thundercat is also a singer, and has released three critically-acclaimed albums, in addition to marquee collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu andChildish Gambino, among others.

Influenced heavily by names like George Duke and the Isley Brothers, Thundercat will move you with his vulnerable falsetto as he sings out lyrics grappling with power-based racial violence and the tragedy of having close friends pass away. While chill and easy-to-dance-to, his music is also deeply concerned with existential questions and his fixation on mortality and the apocalypse.

Thundercat’s style can be best described as a shoegazey readaptation right on the border of neo-grunge, post-math rock, with striking overtones of late capitalism. Okay but, in all seriousness, Thundercat’s ability to traverse genre is praiseworthy. He carefully combines dreamy electronic with elements of jazz and soul. In addition, his incorporation of an old-school funk feel will fill you with nostalgia for your days getting down in your hot pants in those New Orleans clubs in the sultry summer of ’72.

Sango, photo courtesy of Windish.
Sango, photo courtesy of Windish.

From the outset, Concerts and Festivals coordinator Will Siskel ’17 made it his goal to curate a distinct sound for this year’s Springfest concert. A key to this combination is the opener, Sango. Siskel went on to say, “In Sango, we selected an artist that we thought would inject a unique, electronic sound. Sango’s music and DJ sets range from contemporary rap and hip-hop/R&B remixes, to his self-produced Brazilian baile funk, trap infused albums. For an opener, Sango is one of the bigger gets the school has seen in recent years.”

Sango, who has a following of over 200,000 on SoundCloud, is a highly-accomplished artist in his own right, beyond the remixes that initially spurred his celebrity. The Grand Rapids, MI native has recently produced songs for artists Tinashe and Bryson Tiller. Sango has released albums, on which the authentic baile funk samples caught the Brazilian people’s attention in 2016, leaving many convinced that he was a favella-raised Brazilian himself. Sango’s music is definitely a cut above a lot of other contemporary DJs. With a succinct precision that only Youtube comments can convey, I’d have to agree with user Jason Sanchez when he says of Sango’s “Da Rochina 3,” “yo sango word up money you got style son word is bon keep it up money!!!!!!”

“I’m just as excited as anybody for this concert,” Siskel adds. “I trust these immensely talented artists to deliver the excitement that I set out to curate when Alex [Edelmann ’17] and I first starting sending out emails back in November.”

As the semester winds down, and work inevitably begins to pick up as finals approach, Springfest should — as it always has — provide a release for students, as this year’s concert seeks to inject the campus with an uncompromising commitment to a superior, wide-ranging sound.

“I think part of what’s compelling and honestly just fun about musical festivals is the fluid process of discovery — stumbling upon an incredible set that will not only broaden your musical interests, but surprise you in an unforgettable way that only a live performance can,” Siskel said.