Thundercat brings jazz fusion and high emotions to Chico


On Wednesday night, Stephen Lee Bruner, better known as Thundercat, took the stage at the Senator Theatre to play a night of electrifying jazz fusion. The bass-playing, Grammy winning, former crossover thrash band member made Chico his first stop in California on his North American Tour in support of his upcoming album, “It Is What It Is.”

While the crowd may have shown up to the venue expecting Bruner to play strictly hits, he quickly subverted fans’ expectations. The musician opted to throw in sections of improvisational jazz, to the delight of many of the audience members who were local music students themselves. 

Bruner played a diverse set—a mix of classic Thundercat and new songs from his upcoming album. He kept things unexpected, while still throwing in essential hits like soulful, Isley Brothers-inspired “Them Changes”. He also performed a brief cover by the jazz-funk outfit KNOWER and a collaboration with member Louis Cole, who he regards as one of his favorite musicians. 

Audience engagement was high during the entire show, with mosh pits quickly forming after the second song. Bruner reciprocated the energy of the crowd, taking every opportunity to tell the crowd how much he loved everyone. 

Bruner brought emotions in the audience to a high with a tribute to the late rapper Mac Miller, who was a close friend of Bruner. Since Miller’s death, Bruner has been open about how deeply it has impacted him. In a recent interview with Complex, Bruner spoke about saying goodnight to Miller on the phone and telling him he loved him right before he died. 

“From that moment, it’s like I was changed forever,” Bruner said. 

Bruner called on the audience to raise two fingers in the air for Miller, before performing a song in his honor. He also took that moment to honor the lives of his other inspirations who recently passed, like Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant. 

After his last song, the crowd quickly rallied for Bruner to return to the stage for an encore. As everyone made their way to the exit, the energy that he left could still be felt throughout the entire venue.

Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @daysofkati.