It has been a week since this show happened, although for some reason it seems longer. I’m already two events behind here, and I figured I’d better get typing before it becomes three. I first stumbled upon Kristeen Young thanks to my friend (and fervent Kristeen Young advocate), Howard, but despite getting in at the ground floor (her first album, “Meet Miss Young and Her All Boy Band”, which is seventeen years old this year), this was only the second time I’d seen her perform. The last time I saw her perform was at The Blank Club in San Jose, and attendance was so poor that it was more like The Empty Club. This was long enough ago that I hadn’t yet started obsessively writing about every show I attended, so I can’t now remember the year (rifling through my photos on Flickr, I find that it was May, 2009, so slightly over 5 years ago). Despite the lack of audience, it was a great show.
This time out, the ride up to the city included an unexpected but very welcome burst of rain. Once inside city limits, I found myself caught in the gravitational pull of Aquarius Records. Once my wallet had been lightened a bit, I escaped and got a Seitan sandwich at Jay’s Cheesesteaks. Soon, the sunset was a vortex of textured color, Seitan resided within me, and my rain-spotted car was heading eastward toward The Bottom of the Hill.
The opening band, Books On Fate, hadn’t impressed me when I gave them a quick listen online earlier in the day, and their set didn’t do too much to change that impression. They played what might be described as slightly melancholy pop music, but to me it sounded bland.
Next up was City of Women. Based on the name alone, I was expecting there to be at least one woman in the band, but there were no women to be seen. The band played straight up rock music, with satisfying guitar solos and plenty of personality. They provided us with a great set, bristling with energy and burdened with an occasionally misbehaving guitar strap. They were really big on audience participation too, exhorting us to clap and make rhythmic vocal noises. I was impressed enough to buy their record, and I ended up being just in time too, because I got the last copy. Strangely enough, the record has no track listing or credits of any kind. The story I got was that the band doesn’t want there to be any textual distraction from the music (shades of The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud). Later, Jello Biafra, too late to get his own, examined my copy and muttered about how everybody else seemed to be able to afford gatefold sleeves.
Kristeen Young no longer has an all-boy band. For this tour, she was joined by a female bassist and a male drummer. I hadn’t yet heard her new record, “The Knife Shift”, and there are a couple of other gaps in my collection too, but I picked up the record at the show. I was happy to discover that, like last time I saw her, purchasers of multiple items got a discount.
It looked to me that the audience had thinned a bit since City of Women’s set, despite the fact that their singer had exhorted the band’s fanbase to stick around. Armed with only a keyboard and her powerful voice, Miss Young laid waste to the remaining audience. Musically (or vocally, at least), she is often compared to the likes of Kate Bush and Danielle Dax, and that is a fair enough comparison. She is more than that though. The authoritative way that she stabs at her keyboard is a joy to behold. Sometimes she would step away from the keyboard, leaving it to churn out loops of sound as she writhed and vocalized center stage. The bass was pleasingly crunchy and the drums were satisfyingly thumpy.
It’s her voice that really captivates though, always forceful and sometimes ascending into the stratosphere to such an extent that she had to back away from the mic to prevent aural catastrophe. That said, it sometimes sounded like the vocals could have been a bit louder (the bassist’s backing vocals seemed to come through with more clarity at times), but that’s a minor quibble.
By the end of the evening, she had delivered a set of perfect, damaged pop ferocity.
Apparently, the religious right is upset with Kristeen Young too, which to my mind is definitely another point in her favor. Read the article here.
My brother showed up in time to catch her set too, and afterward, we retired to the other side of the bay to enjoy some hot apple cider and cake. Life is good. Kristeen Young is good too. Do your part to piss of the religious right – go buy her stuff. Make her more popular than God. This will both enable Miss Young to continue recording, and irk God's unreasonably antagonistic fanbase.
There is also a group on Facebook called Kristeen Young Fans United. Be a groupie.