"Solo guitar music and insanity: two of my favorite things," Kaki King proclaimed, smiling, as she deftly combined these elements at El Rey on Oct. 22. And she is a mad genius of the six-string (and seven-string, and lap steel, and double-time foot stomping). Her signature fret tapping and skewed tunings have ensnared rock illuminati such as Dave Grohl, and have lent to her status as something of a deity. King rules.
Coffeeshops, the usual stomping grounds for solo axe-wielders, cannot hold the force that is Kaki (nee Katherine) King. She is very much of the goddess vein, in that she utterly commands her gift but also derives endless glee from it. Upon unleashing a new guitar-sitar prototype that the Moog company had sent her, she hammered away like a youngster playing with a shiny new toy. She emitted giggles as her fingers flew, a resounding echo reverberating off this cyborg instrument.
Her elation was also due to her recent marriage to her girlfriend, who was in the audience requesting some of King's more obscure numbers. The virtuoso joked that they didn't get "gay married," but rather "regular married" in New York because the county clerk employees were just as blase and bored about the nuptials as those of any straight couple. She wore a specially crafted ring made for guitarists, thin and agile.
The show was to promote her new release, Glow (Velour), a return to frenetic form. Only two or three songs in the entire set featured vocals, mewly thing that it was - King's strengths definitely lie in her way around a neck, not around pen and paper. The flashes of vulnerability were nice, though, especially during the high-octane "The Fire Eater," a song written for a string quartet but masterfully slaughtered by this solo artist.
"I may pass out in the middle of it," she warned. But that was for naught. Her energy never ceased.
Also fiery was opener Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Fey band name aside, Aly Spaltro's act was passion incarnate. Seemingly just another girl-and-guitar mold, this elfin firebrand summoned the ghost of Janis Joplin. Lyrics like "It's a goddamn joke how we can hurt even in the sun" rolled off her tongue, spitting to high heaven for some rock 'n' roll salvation.
One left the King/Spaltro concert empowered and awed. Who says you gotta crank up a Marshall stack to exude true force and artistry?
- Melissa Bobbitt