Point/Counterpoint: King Khan & BBQ at Mad Planet, 12.1.09

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.

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7 Responses to “Point/Counterpoint: King Khan & BBQ at Mad Planet, 12.1.09”

  1. Chris Van Gompel Says:

    I don’t get BBQ at all, but I would have loved to Those Darlings and Drugs Dragons who I think are pretty damn great.

  2. Thomas Wincek Says:

    It’s a pretty familiar story. People like to jump around and act like goofs to have a good time. A band is happy to oblige, and not confuse anyone with music that anyone has to think about, so band gets popular. I hope people find the irony in the band getting upset at the too-rowdy crowd. What did they think people were there for? It’s certainly not the music. I do hope for these guy’s sake, they don’t expect people to actually start LISTENING to their music, or they could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

  3. Kevin Says:

    Can you really publish a 4-paragraph review of a show you left 4 or 5 songs into? And Thomas, very biting critique! Wow. It’s a good thing I’ve never listened to a note of their music or I might have to sell all the records I’ve bought over the years. I just like listening to music that makes me want to push people and get into fights, that is the only reason I listen to these guys. Could it be the band wants you to dance, and a bunch of douchebags showed up to the show to mosh and fight? I don’t blame the band for being bummed out about a bunch of jocks showing up to ruin the party. Whatever………

  4. Anthony Schwader Says:

    The only redeeming thing about this show I am sure of would have been the Drugs Dragons. And I’m only half sold on them. Nothing I would have enjoyed. My playstation most certainly gave me more enjoyment. BLEH!

  5. Glen Maganzini Says:

    As a die-hard fan, I agree with Kevin. I was at their two earliest tour dates in Massachusetts and at the first one, things went completely wrong. BBQ brought two guitars on tour for the first time and they both messed up. There was like 20 minutes of improvisation. There were only like 5 diehards at that show and we just went with the flow of what happened. Some guy was like “It’s a comedy from down here” and BBQ responded “Well it’s a fucking tragedy from up here.” They were pissed about the technical difficulties, but they pulled the rest of the set off great. At the second date, it was sold-out with a tremendous amount of die-hards. Front row (right behind me at times), there was an absolute asshole who was trashed as fuck just sort of humping people to keep from falling. He stood out like a sore thumb with his giant red mohawk. King even stopped singing just to say to him “come on man. what the fuck?” That’s the kind of guy that can temporarily ruin an experience. We’re all going nuts and then…that guy shows up.

  6. Glen Maganzini Says:

    Just read that other review…that guy might have just followed KK+BBQ on the rest of their tour. In the words of Jay Reatard, fucking creep.

  7. puke shitsmell Says:

    i thought the show was great… those darlings were exceptional, they sounded WAY more rock n roll than their album, kk + bbq were awesome as usual, although the crowd did piss me off. i think that this really just illustrates the gap in venues that hold more than 300 people comfortably but don’t look or feel under-attended below 500 people. There needs to be a venue between the Turner and Mad Planet… and that Thomas dude is totally wrong about King Khan and BBQ, some people just like ridiculousness and humor in their rock, not everything has to be Minor Threat or Dead Kennedys, man.

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