Monday, May 11, 2009

King Khan and the Shrines at Sala Rossa

I love Sala Rossa like its nobody's business. THis show was so sold out that people were hanging out the windows -- not that there are windows upstairs -- but if there were windows, people would have been hanging out of them. I wasn't sure if I was going to get into the show, but with the usual finesse, I found my way inside inches away from King Khan's multi-piece band and burlesque go-go girl. Unfortunately, the guy on either mushrooms or PCP in front of me (he obsessively kept combing his slicked back greasy hair, so I told him a la A Scanner Darkly that he had bugs all over him) kept on stomping on my feet. I had to retreat to the sides and then had to retreat period because at 5'3" I don't see much and I don't like getting elbows to the face that much.

But, I can comment on the part of the spectacle that I did see, and let me tell you, folks, it was a spectacle! King Kahn made me think of 1968 Catskill mountains. He's brought together a ragged assortment of horn players and guitarists and plays songs that are... quite frankly... nostalgic. But modern nostalgia for that suburban sickly-sweet time period, for Elvis and the bobby soxers and stuff... is laced with a kind of skull and crossbones punk as fuckness. What was probably more innocent then has become a kind of zombie retro obsession for an entire underbelly of culture. Khan puts on a show like its nobody's business. King is the right name for him. Kahn is king, and the fact that he's of southeast asian descent instead of wonderbread white, says a great deal about how awesome it is to live in our day and age, in a city where multicultural isn't about being the single identity of your origin. Instead, it is embracing any identity one wants and wearing it with pride.

Khan struts and bellows, he lords it over the audience and loves them. He channels the spirits of those great entertainers but does it with his own very distinct brand of MOntreal cool that falls somewhere between punk, cowboy, city brat, DIYer, and hippie. It's hard to typify a Montrealer -- they always look hot and wear the oddest assemblages with class. He even manages to have his own not-quite-undead cheerleader who shimmys, shakes, and adds real sparkle (pun intended) to everything.

The show wasn't as chaotic as I'd hoped for, but it was much better musically than I ever imagined. For all the James Brown jumping around, Khan and his band have got skills. In other words, don't let the show prevent you from seeing just how good he really is.

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