End Hits has been overloaded with reviews during this action-packed week of music—thanks to Sasquatch—but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't tell you just a bit about the King Khan and the Shrines show at Dante's on Monday night.
It was the tail end of Memorial day weekend, and the atmosphere was one of defiant fatigue, a crowd of rested yet restless young folk looking to be moved to action. Openers The Fresh and Onlys put a lot of energy into their performance, but it didn't quite transfer to the audience. I, for one, was content to save up my dancing steam while watching the female tambourine player belt out ceaselessly obnoxious vocals, reminiscent of the good part of the B-52s gone bad.
After an extended set-up and sound check, Mark Sultan came on with additional bass and guitar players fleshing out his traditional one-man-band getup. My friend and I were wary that the addition of the extra musicians might dilute the raw, rowdy power that makes Mark Sultan as BBQ such a damn fine show. The three-piece ensemble proved to be enjoyable, but the undeniably high moments came when Sultan veered into straight-up BBQ territory, going balls-out on his special mini kick drum and clanging out chords extra-hard to aggravated effect. Even the new Sub Pop single "Hold On" couldn't compare to the response elicited by his older material.
Another tortuously long set change ensued, and the venue, at near-capacity if not entirely full, palpably foamed at the mouth for the headliners to begin. Just in the nick of time—just after midnight to be precise—the various Shrines began to saunter onstage and man their instruments, and an unnamed Indian man jumped up, grabbed the mic, and in a mix of grumble and shriek addressed the crowd: "LAAADEEZ annnnd GENTLEMEN !!! Are! You! Ready! For the supreeeeme genius of KIIIIING?! KHANNNN?! and his faaaaabulous Shrines?"
More photos and King Khan after the jump!
King Khan emerged looking conspicuously glorious in a cheetah-print blazer and (American) Indian headdress, complete with beer belly, chest hair and molestache. Having just come from Sasquatch, where zany and over the top antics are celebrated, I was wary that he might rely on his Vice Records-touted persona to carry the set through. I'm happy to report that he and the Shrines not only lived up to their hype, they then slayed it dead on the altar of rock 'n' roll, and resurrected themselves in a flurry of psychedelic, drug-addled funkin' soul.
Immediately delighting the crowd with tracks from their celebrated release What Is?! ("Land of the Freak," "I Wanna Be a Girl," "Welfare Bread") each band member did what they do best. The drummer—who has played for such legends as Ike & Tina—flopped madly in the back, as the cheerleader gyrated on the edge of the stage accentuating each song with enthusiastic pom-pom thrusts. The bass section swayed stoic to the side as Khan and the guitarists took front and center, jumping into the audience at their whim. A few songs in, and the whole center of the floor was immersed in a dance-hump pit of epic proportions. I was knocked over, flat onto my back. Beer cans flew, bouncing off the guitar player and spewing onto the crowd. An extremely crass version of the call-and-response number "I Took My Lady to Dinner" saw the cheerleader embracing the mic stand as a stripper pole, to much acclaim.
Things really got wild when BBQ came on stage to sing one of their joint numbers, and the combined force of the two performers was almost more than Dante's could contain. When the band was cheered back on for an encore, Khan had donned a silken cape and a face mask. Shortly after, a birthday cake was brought out by several pretty girls wearing turbans. Their turbans were quickly unraveled and thrown into the melee, adding strangulation to the list of present perils, and of course the cake and the crowd could not be kept apart. Frosting soon combined with our layers of sweat, beer, glitter and finally confetti that fell from the ceiling in the closing moments.
The set wound down as each Shrine played the shit out of their instrument until they were literally overturned. The keyboard player sat with his instrument in his lap, breathless. Even more pretty girls got onstage to dance, and the guitar player turned to the crowd and let dozens of sticky hands molest his strings. Various drunkards grabbed the mic stands and screamed unintelligible things. In time each band member left, leaving in their wake a very trashed stage and crowd. How these guys pull this off nightly, weekly, around the world, I have no idea. But I'm very glad that they do.