Kaki King reigns supreme at Monday show

By Tappan Parker

Kaki King, an up-and-coming name on the indie-pop scene, came to Northampton on Monday to wow the crowd with her guitar-playing prowess.

The Iron Horse was the fourth on King’s tour across the U.S. to promote her new album, “Junior.” In stores starting April 13, “Junior” is King’s fifth CD since bursting onto the scene in 2003 with her album “Everybody Loves You.”

The show kicked off with opening act An Horse, an Australian indie-pop band which consists of members Kate Cooper and Damon Cox. While Cooper strums on her guitar and Cox provides a mellow beat on drums, the duo unites to lend heart-felt vocals to their songs. No stranger to touring, the band has played previously with such famous acts as Tegan and Sara and Death Cab For Cutie.

While not technically a full band, the duo still manages to make their music sound full and rich. The two brought the show to life with their light-hearted quips between songs, including how they rarely play shows where people eat food while watching them. Cooper and Cox only played for about 30 minutes, but the duo left the crowd with the impression that they  would  take their act very far.

Kaki King’s arrival on stage was greeted with cheers and applause before she launched into her set. Contrary to her solo act in the past,  King was backed on Monday by Jordan Perlson on drums and Dan Brantigan on both trumpet and analog EVI, an electric instrument that looks somewhat like a trumpet but can be set to play a number of different sounds. Many of the songs used this odd instrument as a bass of sorts.

King’s performance can only be described as enchanting, mesmerizing, and, above all else,  simply astonishing. Her fingers move effortlessly across the guitar strings, displaying a mastery of the instrument with an eclectic combination of styles and complex patterns. King spiced up the performance with her innovative playing style where she uses her hand as an instrument itself and  her fingernails as picks      

Although half of King’s songs lack lyrics, words sometimes seem unnecessary. Her songs blend soft melodies with rhythmic beats, creating a unique musical style that speaks for itself. Her new rhythm section compliments her trademark style, yet her fans at the Iron Horse got a glimpse of the true King when Perlson and Brantigan left the stage and King played solo once again.

Like An Horse, King exhibited a good sense of humor throughout the night, constantly joking around with the band, but never appearing aloof. Kaki King wrapped up the night with a round of wisecracks, leaving the crowd laughing and crying for more.

Before the audience even knew what had happened, the concert was over and Kaki King left the stage with her band. Heeding the cheers from the crowd demanding an encore, King walked back out and completed her set with one more song.  King took our her steel guitar and played a looping version of “Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers”  After arranging all of the loops, King left the stage and joined her fans in a dance. Alas, the concert had to end, and as King departed the crowd reveled in the warm atmosphere born from the astonishing show. Kaki King wowed the Pioneer Valley on Monday night with her remarkable skills on her guitar, and her entertaining performance was both inspirational and memorable.

Following her current tour to promote “Junior,” King will be returning to Northampton next year.

Tappan Parker can be reached at [email protected].