Both DJ Hostettler and Abbie Amadio attended last Tuesday’s Mad Planet show, and came out of it with differing takes on the evening. Here’s a Fan-Belt point/counterpoint on the merits of The King Khan & BBQ Show.
DJ Hostettler: I’m late to the party on the King Khan and BBQ Show. Associates of mine have been singing their praises for a while now, and finally, I made my way to one of their shows—last Tuesday’s gig at Mad Planet with Murfreesboro, TN’s Those Darlins and Milwaukee’s Drugs Dragons—based solely on hype. OK, people, let’s see what the big deal is here. Unfortunately, as I write this on Thursday night, I’m still wondering.
The presentation was fun enough—Khan took the stage in quite the fancy golden dress and platinum blonde wig, while BBQ rocked his standard turban—but it all felt like window-dressing for rudimentary garage-punk that felt lackadaisical and downright half-assed. To be fair, Steven Hyden’s recap of the show over at the AV Club suggested a “growing weariness” in the band stemming from the audience’s drunken, show-disrupting antics. Maybe this was the case—I’m assuming Steven’s seen them before, and I haven’t, so perhaps he has a more forgiving context to paint everything in. But to someone in the back of the room who had never experienced the Kin Korn Karn and the Barbecues, it was impossible to tell that Khan’s lazy rendition of “I Like to Masturbate” was improvised cover for a messed-up guitar (frankly, it didn’t sound very far removed from the rest of the material).
I left about four or five songs in after deciding that this wasn’t worth losing any more sleep the next morning—heck, the audience was going positively butt-humping crazy for them, so I didn’t think they’d miss me. Fortunately, a solid set by openers Those Darlins redeemed the night. Sure, they’re essentially a one-trick pony in that their raucous country-punk tunes were all more or less played at the exact same tempo and lacked much songwriting variety, but that one trick was a damn good one. The three-girl, one-dude ensemble tore through their beer and whiskey-fueled set with plenty of sweat, piss, vinegar, and attitude to spare.
But still, my primary takeaway from Tuesday night’s Mad Planet show was: Really? For all the hype, is the King Khan and BBQ Show just a pair of goofballs strumming guitars and singing ridiculous, overly-simplistic (I guess a positive review would consider it “primal” or “minimalist”) garage-punk? The Harold and Kumar of the genre, if you will?
Fellow Fan-Belt contributor Abbie Amadio spent the set gleefully rocking out with the rest of Riverwest, so maybe she can set me straight or explain all this to me.
Abbie Amadio: DJ is right. I spent the majority of King Khan & BBQ’s set butt-humping with all the crazies at the front of the stage. Lucky for me the band played a good number of songs from their first record, which I was thrilled to hear, and consequently induced pelvic spasms and head-bobbing. I loved the tease build-up to their opening song “Fish Fight” and the follow-up of “Zombies”—two of their most catchy, chaotic tracks. The way-Cramps-y “Hold Me Tight” and the top banana of sing-alongs “Waddlin’ Around” were placed early in the set as well, and, likewise, spawned more gyrating and spazz-outs from the crowd (and me).
For two goofballs, King Kahn and BBQ make some hella catchy and fun songs, albeit simplistic. But so what? There’s something intangible in the primal and simple that is entirely appealing and freeing. Sometimes I don’t want to go to a show and “think” about a band, or wrap my brain around sounds emanating from eight different instruments, or get swallowed up in the drone of a million guitar pedals. Sometimes I just want to throw my fist in the air and let my lower extremities contort any way they will. I want to sing along to a ridiculous song that has little content except that it’s silly. I don’t think the King Khan & BBQ Show have been hyped as anything more than that—two goofballs (one strumming guitar and the other playing caveman drums) tearing through some ultra-catchy, garage-punk poppiness wearing silly outfits and singing about dumb shit and doin’ it.
As far as their performance Tuesday night, I also have to agree with Steve Hyden, who said in his AV Club recap that “something was off.” Whether it was the couple unruly audience members, the recent bust/hold-up in Kentucky, or as a friend also in attendance said, “the impending full moon,” the band seemed generally unhappy. Barely cracking smiles during most of their songs, they seemed irritable and quick to retort to the overzealous/drunk/asshole/what-have-you fans getting under their skin. It kind of soured the set and, unfortunately, didn’t convert any potential new fans in attendance. (Those new fans who stayed past three songs, DJ!) They slowed it down considerably halfway in (after exchanging words with a couple pushy dudes in front) and, honestly, lost me (a person who was having a really good time) both with the borderline-bad vibes wafting through the air and the song “Tastebuds”—a retardedly ridiculous track from their new album Invisible Girl that fantastically scatters taste buds all over genital orifices and body fluids (male and female alike) and that made me roll my eyes with feigned queasiness. But despite the band’s indifferent expressions and malaise—made worse by the isolated douchebaggery—King Khan & BBQ compensated by playing a lot of their most raucous songs, if only half-successfully delivering the performance they are capable of and the good time everyone was anticipating.