At age 26, Kaki King became the first female to earn the title "Guitar God" from Rolling Stone, and after seeing her live at the Ark in Ann Arbor, I found it to be a title well-earned.
Kaki's style is an entirely new sort of genre for me. I tend to prefer full-sounding bands over one person and an instrument, but Kaki's strength and skill as a guitarist and her ability to sound like five musicians all by herself easily drew me in with her complex instrumental jam sessions. Even in those songs without lyrics, Kaki's music is so full of emotion that it's not hard to feel exactly what she's trying to express. I was first introduced to Kaki King through her collaborations with Tegan and Sara, and absolutely loved the extra depth she brought to Knife Going In. Investigating further, I immediately fell in love with Dreaming of Revenge and sought out as many YouTube videos I could find of her doing what she does best - electrifying beats, fret-tapping and slap - so I was definitely excited to see her skill in person.
An Horse opened for Kaki, a Ruckus favorite. They did a great job getting the crowd excited, despite their concerns about being mismatched for such a "polite venue," as Damon called it. "I hope [our music's] not too loud or abrasive or anything," Kate worriedly addressed the audience. "We usually play clubs that are different to this, but our friend Kaki King invited us out and I think sometimes she likes to put us in venues like this to have a good ol' laugh." Their concerns were unfounded, as it was clear the crowd loved their amusing banter and energetic sound. They played an entirely too short set, but some of my favorites of the night included Little Lungs and Camp Out.
Bone Chaos in the Castle. Jumping between the more poppy songs from the newest album like The Betrayer to her more traditional sound like Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers, Kaki kept the audience on their feet. We were never lulled by the soft melodic instrumentals too long before we were hit by an upbeat, foot-tapping number.
The latest album Junior has none of the impressive guitar-tapping I immediately loved about her unique sound, but the songs were all still distinctly Kaki. A new favorite is definitely Falling Day, which started off her set and sounded absolutely amazing live. Pull Me Out Alive, one of my favorites from the last album also gained an even more robust sound on the stage.
Jordan, Kaki's drummer, was extraordinarily skilled, and I found myself drawn to his energy and stamina throughout the show. Multi-instrumentalist Dan on the EVI, flugelhorn and trumpet, also brought amazing talent and depth to many of the numbers. But when Kaki sent them away for part of the show to take the stage by herself, it was my personal favorite part of the night. It was amazing to see Kaki, standing alone on a small stage, pouring her heart out and really living the music. There's something magical about that moment during a show where you can feel the artist lose themselves completely in the music, forgetting where they are and who they're playing for. Kaki drifted into those moments quite a few times and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.
Kaki's skill as a guitarist and her uncanny ability to find that unique sound and add the perfect touch to her already powerful arrangements ought to convince you to give her a listen. I highly recommend Dreaming of Revenge, but her newest album is definitely growing on me as well. And if you get a chance, I strongly urge you to experience her talent in person. You will not go home disappointed.