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Kaki King, Acoustic Queen

Kaki King
Park West – Chicago, Il

The only female to ever be nominated alongside other great rockers of her generation and described by Rolling Stone as “Van Halen meets Bootsy,” Kaki King is a captivating reminder of how much work artists can put into their music – though many don’t follow suit. There has been a strange change from previous albums to her most current as she abandons the dazzling musicianship she has previously known, for a more explosive, experimental sound. The Georgia native brought her new and old workings to the Chicago scene, exploring this new chapter in her music career and taking us all along for the ride.

“We are so happy to be here again tonight,” King exclaimed. Kaki King has played at Park West more than once as she cited her excitement to play the stunning venue one more time. Chances are you will rarely see anyone play the guitar quite like King. One minute she’s “tapping” the frets like she’s playing the harp, and the very next second she’s slapping the guitar like a new born baby making it sing unlike any guitar sounds you have heard before. Her skill can attest to how versatile instruments can be as she often used it to provide her own driving percussion in the midst of her solo set.

Watching Kaki King play was mystifying; I was literally awestruck from seeing her play the guitar in such a way. Her non-vocal writings sound similar to that of Explosions in the Sky inasmuch as a steady, unwavering wall of sound mixed with heavy drums and warped electronics. Dan Brantigan syncing the electronics to King’s killer set while Jordan Perslon gave the lengthy set the “punch” it needed to steadily rock the entire Chicago venue. Both instrumentalists play on her newest recording (Junior), somehow helping to shape the songs into something greater than a full band could provide. The inspiration for her latest album comes from the double life of espionage, even citing her father’s dreams of being chased by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany as an idea behind the single, “Betrayer.”

The insights she shared with the audience were downright hilarious. Between too much information about her parents “relations” and conversations about an estranged fans compliments (sexy fingertips, was it), Kaki King kept the crowd elated in between numbers while she prepared for her next song. “I’m trying to learn the art of tuning and talking at the same time,” Kaki explained. After ripping her guitar strings to shreds, she often had to work the guitar back in tune.

Before King started to work her magic on the steel lap guitar, she promised, “I’m not fucking around. I said I was going to dance with you.” She began to play, softly at first, looping phrases together before adding Brantigan and Perlson back into the mix. Once her phrases was all set, she eagerly sprung out of her chair and started dancing, leaping off stage to dance with each section of the dancing mob that surrounded the small stage. She danced with the entirety of the crowd on the ground before rushing back to play the last build of the song, barely making it in time. You could tell that kind of rush was exactly the kind of thing King tours for.

Kaki King brought a few goodies with her, a limited edition vinyl of her very first recording, the score to a movie she wrote for entitled “How I Got Lost” among others, all of which she was more than happy to sign afterward. Her work has spanned across more than six albums including a live EP of her 2007 tour in Australia. Kaki King’s latest album (Junior) is much different than her previous work, yet the same amount of unconventional instrumentation goes into this new adventure for Kaki King.

Written by: Blake Russell

Photos by: Katie Williams

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