After months of sheltering in place, being outside and around people feels strange—even for Thundercat, who played his first show since the COVID-19 shutdown at the Bayshore Drive-In in Burlingame last night. “This has been a weird year,” he told the audience. “Anybody struggle through the debate before this to make it worse?”
“Well, we’ll be alright—or not,” he continued with an ambivalent laugh, basically personifying the “this is fine” meme, before recommending that his audience tune into the new Inuyasha sequel.
In an oversized Dragon Ball t-shirt, with his dyed hair grown out and showing roots, it was clear that the celebrated jazz-pop bassist and singer has been just as affected by the cooped-up boredom, isolation and political malaise of 2020 as the rest of us. Between the airy, falsetto choruses of tracks from his new album, It Is What It Is—the title of which unintentionally echoes a dismal Trump quote about the pandemic, appropriate for a year of dark nihilism—Thundercat seemed to go from awkward to alive while shredding on his six-string bass, making the “ooh” faces of an impassioned rock star in sync with his instrument.
Like the audience, he looked at once thrilled and confused to experience the first fully fledged concert in ages in what basically amounted to a parking lot. At one point, he joked that our honks of approval sounded like road rage, calling it triggering, but he thanked us for our enthusiasm anyway.
The Thundercat show was the first of a new concert series at the Bayshore Drive-In. It’s a golf course near the San Francisco International Airport that local sound company HUSHconcerts converted into a venue, with booking help from promoter Hotbox, which puts on these types of concerts across the country—a new trend thanks to the pandemic. It’s admittedly an odd place to see live music, but few Bay Area locations have enough space to meet COVID-19 safety requirements for a drive-in show, so I’m not complaining.