Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kimya Dawson at Komedia, Brighton

Komedia, Brighton 19/05/09

Angelo Spencer was naked at The Komedia. Not literally, of course. The skinny Frenchman was very much clothed, but, due to a lack of a van to carry his kick-drum, high-hat and bass, the one-man band was forced to appear with just his electric guitar for company. While he struggled to adjust, he still made a raucous noise and, as is his way, stopped songs midway in order to explain something about the lyrical content or - more likely - to go off at a random tangent about hiking.

Spencer's wife, Kimya Dawson, has come a long way since I first sat cross-legged to see her in the tiny Freebutt a few years ago. Post-Juno, the venues have grown and so have the crowds, meaning it was standing room only. I'm not a snob when it comes to artists becoming successful, especially when the growth is organic and, like Dawson, the artist stays 100% true to their roots, but with larger crowds comes the inevitability that the idiot count will rise amongst the audience. Back in the day, crowds at Kimya shows would consist of meek nerds in cardigans and appropriately indie t-shirts. And, while the vast majority of people last night were simply music fans who acted with perfect etiquette considering the intimacy of the show, there were also too-cool-for-school, oh-so-kooky and leftfield 'I'm mad, me,' kids (like the ones that stood directly behind me) who insisted on chatting loudly and shouting comments that were inappropriate considering the solemn nature of the show (more on this later). Never mind that one of the most honest songwriters in the world was playing gentle acoustic music a few feet in front of them, these idiots wanted to be the centre of attention. Okay, Kimya's shows are often best when there is a constant exchange between her and the crowd (indeed, until recently, she didn't even bother writing a set-list, and just waited for requests), but talking loudly throughout while hardly listening to a word Kimya sang was disrespectful to her and the rest of her audience.Anyway, rant over. Thankfully, despite the bigger venue and the speckling of morons, the show was as intimate as ever. Kimya had a couple of friends on stage with her who, through strings and xylophone, added depth to her simple thumb-strumming. While typically shy and amicable, she had a decidedly different tone to the hilarious between-song banter she offered last time I saw her in Sydney. "You know I love you Brighton. I'm just not feeling very chatty today," she told us. Soon, she explained why. The day before the show, a good friend had died. She had spent the previous two days at his bedside, singing songs to him. He was cremated in the t-shirt she had made him. All of a sudden, her sombre mood made sense, and songs like Underground and It's Been Raining took on a whole new perspective and had even greater weight than they already did.

That's not to say that the show was a miserable one. She laughed and joked with her backing band and told a weird tale about triplets conceived four months apart and about trampolining on Brighton Pier while needing a wee. There were songs from Alphabutt, her kids album, as well as old favourites like The Beer.

Typical of Kimya, she played until the venue basically kicked her off stage long after the curfew had passed. This is the seventh time I have seen her and, having been a fan since The Moldy Peaches days, it is hard to keep perspective on how good this show was, so will sum up with the words that Emma from Owl and the Grapes said to me at lights-up: "Kimya made me want to live more. Her songs made me happy and sad at the same time."

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