One of the first questions I ask new people is, “What kind of music do you like?”
I find the answer invariably saves some time and energy while making a determination as to whether I’m gonna find them compatible on any level.
Garth Brooks? I politely excuse myself from the conversation.
The Smiths? I know I’ve run into an old soul from the days of war and sorrow. Aretha Franklin? This is obviously a person of substance. Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave? This is someone I need to know. People who hate the Cure? They can right fuck off as far as I’m concerned.
And if they don’t really listen to music at all? I make the sign of Jimi Hendrix’s Fender and beat a hasty retreat — thrilled that I avoided significant contact with a hell-sent monster intent on harvesting whatever remains of my soul.
When asked the question, myself — I have a hard time responding. I love so much music in so many forms and functions that I find it difficult to parse down to an pat answer. How do you explain that you receive equal joy from Sinatra and Bauhaus? That you take the same level of exultation in Ray Charles as in Morphine. That Mingus turns you on with the same wattage as Bowie? Or Liz Phair? Or N.W.A? Or Jack Black? The list goes on for miles and miles and miles — you get my gist, I’m sure.
I love music about real shit. Built on a bedrock of blood and thunder. There’s not exactly a PH test to measure this, of course. Much like pornography, I can’t quite tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.
Last night, I headed over to the NorVa to catch K. Flay. My verdict? With power and grace and pure abandon, this woman brings the fire.
She’s the real goddamn deal.
Kristine Meredith Flaherty, or as she’s better known, K. Flay, fell into a Rap career through a chance remark on how simple much of the work she’d heard seemed. She launched a first effort back in 2003, more as a joke than anything else: A profanity laced parody entitled “Blingity Blang Blang.”
Her performance last night at the NorVa proves that she’s no joke. Flay launched into her set with unbounded freneticism. Her music has largely left the confines of Rap, veering into a territory staking bold claims to Indie Rock or ballsy Low-Fi Pop while still maintaining an impressive lyrical command that at times takes your breath away. From the moment she steps on stage, you find yourself rooting for her. It’s obvious that the masses of young women who came out for the show are deeply, madly in love with her. For good reason. She explores common themes with a ferocity and honesty that’s admirable.
The core of Flay’s appeal could best be summed up in an exploration of her alias: Flay. As in she’s fearless when it comes to stripping away protective layers to get to the heart of whatever she’s singing about. This is, perhaps, symbolically represented by the gradual shedding of clothing layers until she reaches a point where she’s bare armed and vulnerable.
Her musicians are top notch. The music is tight, and she leaves nothing on the stage. She’s possessing of a singular kind of voice that modulates somewhere between a snarl and a plea. She reminds me, not in exact style or genre — more in overall feel — of Holly McNarland from the late 90s/early aughts. Powerful. Confident. Unstoppable.
If you have the opportunity to catch her live, I suggest you take it. It’s only a matter of time before she’s a much bigger name, with the more substantial ticket pricing that goes along with that.
. . .
I was surprised that there were openers, as I didn’t see any noted on the bill in advance. Paper Route, from out of Nashville, is one those groups that popped up while I was in deep sabbatical listening to dead Bluesmen. As such I hadn’t heard of them before last night. An Indie-Rock band from the mid aughts, these guys obviously have a loyal and devoted following.
They remind me a bit of Hunters and Collectors, Arcade Fire, or maybe even Imagine Dragons. All in and all, I was left pleased with the energy they brought to the stage and plan to pull down an album or two of their offerings to further explore.
. . .
Born in Nigeria, with a childhood in California — Daye Jack is billed as an experimental Hip-Hop artist citing influences such as 50 Cent and Andre 3000. He came on stage with a lot of energy, but ultimately his sound fell flat for me.
Perusing his Youtube channel, I can see where he shows promise. Sadly, his live show appears to be heavily dependent on pre-recorded tracks on his lonesome. It’s a sound which does little for me, but I’d like to see him again with a larger stage presence. Maybe add some dancers and an actual backing band. But as I saw him last night, it’s not a show I’d recommend to others anytime soon. Granted, my taste in Hip-Hop is limited to say the least — I may just not have the ear for him.
. . .
That’s it for today.
Check back next week for a list of our picks for local music and visiting national acts.
Till then? Stay out of traffic and try not to break any hearts.