Way Out In Left Field & Lovin’ It (Top Of The First)
I’ve been to two shows recently that I want to discuss. Both headlining acts are internationally well known, loved by many a famous musician and way out in left field. At the same time, both have managed to stay practically unknown to the general populace. The shows I went to are Kid Koala at the Mod Club and Michael Franti / Spearhead at the Guvernment (more on that later).
Let’s start with your mother’s favourite DJ, Kid Koala. His real name is Eric San, he is Canadian and is without question my favourite DJ. He is a music nerd’s supreme DJ. Not only is he a phenomenal solo performer, he has been a part of many great collaborative music projects over the years.
To start, Kid Koala is a member of the funk band Bullfrog out of Montréal. He spins in horns and samples over the rest of the live band. Check out the songs Isn’t So Bad and Reverse Psychology. These guys are great to see live — lots of funk, emphasis on the first 3 letters.
On top of Bullfrog, he was also a member of hip hop act Deltron 3030. They released one album and consisted of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator and the Koala himself. Deltron 3030 is a concept album about a rap battler, Deltron X, hip hopping his way across the galaxy in the year 3030. A couple of joints to inhale are Things You Can Do and Madness (MySpace).
Yet another band Koala was in is Lovage. This was a side project consisting of Dan the Automator, Mike Patton (of Faith No More & Mr. Bungle), and Jennifer Charles (of Elysian Fields). Again, only one album was released — Nathaniel Marriweather Presents: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. I’m not going to attempt to classify this disc, but it is amazing, one of my favourite albums. The entire album is themed around sex. Some songs are in your face seductive while others steal from film and literature to set the sexual setting of the tracks. There are two great songs on this album that justify me calling it brilliant. Strangers on a Train, which documents one of James Bond’s sexual conquests while riding the rails, and Archie and Veronica, a haunting ballad sung from the perspective of a mourning Archie and a dead Veronica. In it, Archie laments never sleeping with Veronica, while she makes light of the same fact in a teasing manner. With lyrics like “jealous of the flies and the worms inside me,” this song paints a grim picture of the end their comic book romance (MySpace).
Finally one other act that Kid Koala was in is Gorillaz, Damon Albarn of Blur’s comical side project. If I’m not mistaken he was only a member for the first album. On a side note, Damon Albarn makes a cameo on the Lovage album.
This brings me to the man himself. Kid Koala as a solo artist is something to behold. I will admit, his solo work is not for everyone. He is an experimental turntablist; much of his work is of a very scratchy, jazzy nature. Great tracks to hear are Music for Morning People, Fender Bender and Skanky Panky. He has three full length albums as well as a musically accompanied comic book, numerous mix tapes and a live disc. Eric San is a true artist, mixing his mixing with his visual arts, he creates multilayered art exhibits like you have never seen or heard. But Kid Koala is also an artist who knows how to please an audience. His live shows are much more mainstream and approachable than his recorded work. Koala’s albums are for music geeks — his shows are for anyone who likes a good time (MySpace).
The show I went to recently was at Toronto’s Mod Club, one of the city’s best live music venues. The stage was flanked by two large screens showing a bird’s eye close-up of the turn tables on stage. Kid Koala started a couple of hours after doors opened, leaving fans bored and drunk by the time he hit stage. Upon entering, San began by setting up his tables then bringing the audience’s attention to a large flip book. After flipping through several pages welcoming his fans to the show, he got to work. During his set he spun NIN, Radiohead, Bjork, Amon Tobin, Arcade Fire, UNKLE and a slew of other music geek favourites. He also did covers of Over the Rainbow and Moon River. At one point in his set, he invited a few fans on stage to ninja fight. Three fans got up on stage and were given plastic weapons and proceeded to “fight” to his music, it didn’t take long before the fighting became dancing. During another segment in the show, he told the audience about a 3D cartoon he had been working on animating and scoring. He had recently been trying to mimic a mosquito playing clarinet using his turntable. Of course he proceeded to test his insect woodwind player on his fans. I have to admit, I’ve never heard a mosquito play clarinet before, but I think he nailed it. Finally at the end of his set, he drew the cover of his new album on the flip book and exited the stage.
This was the fourth time I have seen Kid Koala spin, twice with Bullfrog and now twice solo. The first solo show I went to was definitely better, but this was still nothing to complain about. As I stated, Kid Koala is a music nerd’s ultimate DJ, which is just what I am (a music nerd). His shows are amazing, he is one of the few turntablists that I truly consider to be a musician, an artist. Live, he makes wholly new amazing music by using already existing amazing music — it really is a feat to behold. Recorded, he is like nothing you’ve ever heard. I recommend you do.
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