I’m a big advocate of not placing favorite musicians on a pedestal and not letting their personalities affect your feelings towards their music. But sometimes, it’s hard to bear. When I bought Kaki King’s Legs To Make Us Longer two years ago, it was difficult to keep her off said pedestal — I mean, she makes music all by herself and has taken acoustic guitar-playing to an entirely new level. She picks the strings with fast-as-lightning speed and beats her guitar like it’s a drum.
So imagine my shock while sitting eagerly in my chair at the Variety Playhouse when I saw a moody King coming back to her hometown. She opened the set with title track, “…Until We Felt Red,” which was amazing. A few songs into it, though, it got a little awkward, and when I say “a little,” I mean, “extremely.” The kind of awkward where you wish you could transport to another room. King’s keyboardist ran into some technical difficulties, which forced himself and the drummer off the stage for repairs. King then performed fan favorite “Playing with Pink Noise” solo. From there, she went into “Ahuvati,” which, though admittedly great, was hard to listen to when the whole time she was looking around, waiting for her band mates to come back on stage. After rushing through the song, she said huffily, “Seriously, am I gonna have to play the rest of the show by myself?” A fan was cheering her on, requesting songs from her catalog, but she merely angrily replied, “F*** you, man! F*** all y’all!”
It was pretty much downhill from there, even though her band rejoined her. After highlighting with “You Don’t Have To Be Afraid,” King apologized and explained it was her sixth show with her backing band, and that she got really lonely touring her previous albums and was starting to feel like a novelty act (i.e.: the “Queen of the Acoustic Guitar” and “The Tapping Girl” tags that are sometimes associated with her). I understand her frustration, because I’m sure it gets lonely touring completely solo, but at the same time, she is in a position that many songwriters would kill for. Here she is, often compared to experimental guitar mastermind John Fahey, coming into the scene and doing something totally different, and she’s brushing it off with school-girl shame.
Don’t get me wrong — it was a good performance. But at the same time, I was disappointed. The whole point of being a true artist is to not be affected by what people say about you. If you want to prove that you’re more than what others typecast you, then show us; don’t whine about it to us.