BROOKLYN, NY—Have you ever had a conversation with someone who seems totally funny and normal and then halfway through you realize that this person is a total genius? Going to see Kaki King is kind of like that.
It’s clear from her recordings that she is a fabulous guitar player and she’s featured on every top guitarist list (as the sole representative of her sex). But Kaki King’s last record, Dreaming Of Revenge, is subtle. That sounds pretentious, but it’s true. Her melodies are usually simple, her guitar playing complex, and when she includes lyrics they are usually heartfelt and dream-like. It’s easy not to fully realize how much is put into one of her songs, because they are so listenable and put together.
By the time I got to the Music Hall Of Williamsburg, I was late and alone. But I knew it would it be worth it. I recognized that Kaki was already playing “Bone Chaos In The Castle” while the ticket teller checked my ID and I ran inside.
Kaki’s band also includes a drummer and an EVI player (though she played several solo songs). I had never heard of or seen an EVI before so I was pretty shocked when the guy stuck it in his mouth and started playing.”It’s a bong!” Kaki explained. A wind synthesizer played with trumpet fingerings, it actually looks like a power-strip with a rotating shampoo cap on the bottom. It was startling, but pretty amazing.
This may be her onstage persona, but she was really personable and funny. She explained that she had a ruptured eardrum (and claimed it smelled so bad her dog wouldn’t go near her) and that this was her first show in a long time. After one of the first few songs, she mentioned to her band, “I have a Xanax in my back pocket if either of you are nervous.” The crowd laughed, especially when she added, “I wasn’t joking…” While playing a new song, “The Girl I Lost To Sunnyside,” which is about cheating, getting caught, and breaking up, she sang the lyric about how all they had left “is a wiener dog that chews up everything I love” and everyone laughed and cheered. Kaki looked up and chastised us with, “This is a fucking sad song!” and kept going. She also announced herself the winner of various awards, including the award for wearing the cutest t-shirt on stage and for spoiling the secret when she confessed her love of spy novels as the premise for her new track, “Spies Tone (Betrayer),” before she played it.
Humor aside, she really is phenomenal. When she told us she was improvising a song, she was legitimately improvising—so much so that when she finished this slap guitar and harmonic epic she asked nonchalantly if anyone had her phone number then sat with her guitar for another minute, told us a series of notes, and asked a friend to text it to her. Later, when she felt like improvising again only this time along with her EVI player, Dan Brantigan, it felt like we’d stepped into the future, only instead of being filled with global warming and water shortages, it was filled with awesomeness and sitars.
Still stuck in my head is the underage love song “Jessica” which breaks my heart every time I hear it, and “Doing The Wrong Thing” which was energetic and upbeat, or “So Much For So Little.” Actually, everything was great. I even enjoyed “Pull Me Out Alive” and normally I hate that song.