Kaki King @ the Middle East Downstairs

Kaki King @ the Middle East Downstairs

This was definitely an evening for aficionados of impressive guitar heroics, but it was also a surprisingly good night for indie pop fans. Kaki King can definitely play a mean guitar (in fact, several different ones, in varying ways and styles), but she also has a sweet voice and can craft some decent songs, making for a varied set that moved from light and melodic to jaw-dropping guitar sorcery to intense ambient/fusion.

An Horse

An Horse

Australia’s An Horse (Kate Cooper on guitar/vocals and Damon Cox on drums/melodica/backing vocals) started the evening, sounding a lot more interesting to my ears than when I saw them open for Silversun Pickups and Cage The Elephant at the land of abysmal sound quality and penal system crowd control, The Webster in Hartford, Connecticut. At that time, I speculated that they would benefit from a smaller club with better acoustics, and boy was I right. In the crazy blur that was last month’s live show extravaganza, I’m not recalling exactly what was played, but either there was some newer material since last year’s Rearrange Beds, or their quieter, more melodic tunes stood out more from their harder rocking ones just by virtue of the far better acoustics. They sounded really good.

Kaki King

Kaki King

Knowing beforehand that Kaki King has made a name for herself by being a gifted guitarist, to the point of being named as a “Guitar God” by Rolling Stone in 2006, I was expecting an evening of some impressive playing and general guitar worship. Indeed there was – god, she is really, really good. But she also has a lovely indie pop voice; good, sometimes melancholy songs (her latest album, Junior, centers around a relationship breakup); and a warm and engaging personality with great audience interaction. There were many different moods to her performance – mini sets of her pop tunes, longer jams that were more jazz fusion and ambient, melodic folky pieces, and showcases featuring her trademark fret-tapping/hammering technique, strongly influenced by ace guitarist Preston Reed, whom she says is an influence.

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Joining her were two excellent Berklee schooled musicians – drummer Jordan Perlson and Dan Brantigan playing keyboards, electronics, trumpet, and a curious melodica-like device that I see now is known as an EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). They deftly created a multilayered, richly melodic backdrop which beautifully complemented her guitar excursions.

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Her set included some solo performances, including a gorgeous lap steel piece in the encore and some guitar looping, during which she jumped into the crowd and danced for a while with her enraptured fans.

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Their tour with An Horse is currently in Colorado, and then finishes up on the West Coast.

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An Horse: MySpace | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter | Kaki King: MySpace | official site | Facebook

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