25.07.2019

K.Flay brought a wall of sound and meaning to Melbourne’s Howler

Words by Scott Hudson

It was a momentous performance from the genre-bending artist.

A line to enter Howler’s bandroom in time to see K.Flay‘s opening act was a great indication of Melbourne healthy culture of supporting local music. San Mei displayed her alt-pop charm on stage joined by a bassist, guitarist and ‘Sarah’, one of the most joy-inducing drummers to step on stage. Playing her performance to an ever-filling room, she had the crowd stepping out of their insecurity and dancing before K.Flay touched the stage.

The time between the acts zoomed by quickly before the stragglers occupied all the room’s remaining space and waited impatiently as the lights went dark and a guitarist and drummer walk on stage. As the pulsating guitar line of ‘Black Wave’ cut through the air, a spellbound K.Flay emerged on stage, punching out the first lines with unfettered emotion. What is made abundantly clear is the crispness of her vocals and the production’s evanescent blend of colours which illuminated her figure.

The set proceeded with a continuous stream of tracks, ‘Giver’, ‘Make Me Fade’ and ‘It’s Strange’ – her track with Louis the Child. She leaved only a fleeting break in ‘Giver’ to say “hello” with a cheeky grin. Her energy seemed to flow limitless, but she eventually paused to remind the audience that she was here with her new album Solutions and promptly jumped on a drum pad to perform the first of her new tunes – slamming the beat of ‘This Baby Don’t Cry’. The audience screamed, “When you don’t give a fuck it’s like riding a bike” alongside her as the track filled the room. Her instrumental skills didn’t end there, soon she was standing, guitar in hand, and delivering the bridging guitar riff, demonstrating her talents as a multi-instrumentalist. ‘Sister’ and ‘Good News’ were the next singles up, performed alongside a wall of sound and enthusiasm.

“If anyone in the audience can do this song word for word, I will hug you… in spirit,” K.Flay challenges jovially, before beginning ‘Champagne’. True to her word, once the song concluded a fan was invited on stage and was paraded for his lyrical delivery. Next was ‘Not In California’, which concluded with K.Flay announcing the next track was dedicated to her mum – she then proceeded to leave a heart-warming monologue for her maternal role model.

After melding her performance of ‘Can’t Sleep’ with the chorus of ‘Dreamers’, K.Flay asked her audience, “Has anyone here liked someone who hasn’t liked you back?” This preluded the track ‘Wishing It Was You’ before the theme was flipped on its head as she asked audience members to grab their partner (or own butts) and act like they were sixteen at a disco – “except you have the maturity of adults”.

Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’ makes a cameo appearance as K.Flay returns to her guitar and matches Billy Corgan’s harsh vocal execution. ‘Bad Vibes’ is the final of her most recent singles to get played before she announces there won’t be a pseudo-encore and that everyone should give it their all with this final tune.

The distinctive guitar line of ‘Blood In The Cut’ hits the air and the crowd burns the last of their energy with a word-for-word singalong. K.Flay then exits off stage, leaving her bandmates to jam it out, and a satisfied crowd to dance until the doors open.

Highlight: Lo-fi performance of ‘High Enough’.

Lowlight: Would have appreciated more crowd interaction.

Crowd favourite: The grand finale of Blood In The Cut’.