The first time I saw K. Flay, she was DJing and doing supporting vocals for MC Lars as they opened for OC’s Zebrahead at the House of Blues, Anaheim in 2009.
At this point, she did not even have any solo demos or EPs. I’ve watched her grow from playing to a couple dozen people at Chain Reaction in the early 2010s, to selling out the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles this past Sunday.
With it, her writing, musicianship, and overall stage presence has grown immensely. She’s progressed from being a rapper, to incorporating rock and electro-pop. After releasing the two EPs, “Inside Voices” and “Outside Voices,” in 2021, earlier this year, the two were released as one 12-track LP, simply titled, “Inside Voices/Outside Voices.” Flay’s current tour has taken her across the country beginning in February and concludes tonight in Phoenix.
THE FONDA THEATRE
Los Angeles, California
March 13, 2022
Flay has a knack for finding young and upcoming talent with similar vibes or musical styles and bringing them along on tour. Opening the show was Nashville’s corook, and there is a lot to unpack watching her perform. She’s hilarious and uses comedy both in between and during her songs, and at first glance, you may think she’s “just” a rapper. But then, just as quickly, she’s picked up a banjo and singing a heartfelt song about how she’s a “bad friend.” corook (real name Corinne Savage) announced that the shows on this tour were her first live performances ever, and she was still really nervous.
Before you know it, corook is moving back to a hilarious, yet catchy song about how “I Don’t F*** with Snakes” – think Ke$ha meets Lil Dicky. She can also play guitar and sing beautifully, both of which are showcased on her latest single “idk god.”
Kid Sistr is a trio from New York bringing indie pop rock to the masses. Guitarist Sabel and bassist Sara Keden trade off vocals in between songs. Their set consisted mostly of songs off of their self-titled debut EP. Their single “Palpitations,” sung by Sabel, is a jazzy number led by Keden’s heavy bass. The Keden-sung “Please Dump Him” is a faster-paced song about an awful ex-boyfriend of hers, which she explained “is why I don’t date men anymore.”
The most electrifying moment of the set came when the band covered the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” which brought the house down and got the crowd moving right up until Keden’s iconic bass solo, made famous by the late MCA.
In her earliest days performing, K Flay, born Kristine Flaherty, would perform with just a laptop on a small table and rap off of preprogrammed beats that she has made. These days, however, she has a full backing band consisting of a drummer on just about every song, and then a guitarist, and sometimes additional acoustic guitar or bass. More than that, her show has evolved into something of a performance art, whereby she tells a story about her childhood until present day, and all of the inside and outside voices that have followed and influenced her life. She does so after every few songs by siting near the edge of the stage, lights turned down, and a spotlight on her as she tells a narrative that eventually leads up to the next song. It’s beautiful art, and one which my words will surely fail to do justice, as nothing short of witnessing it in person can really capture the essence of her current show.
As the lights dimmed, the crowd cheered loudly as Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” played in its entirety before the band took their place and Flay came out to sing “Four Letter Words.” She followed up with “Giver,” the only song off of her “Solutions” album. Her first storytelling came a few songs in and Flay sat and talked about anxiety and worries she had has a child, which felt like it was building up like a “Black Wave,” which brought one of the biggest crowd reactions of the night, causing the fans to jump and dance frantically in response.
Flay played a rare treat as she broke out “Make Me Fade” and “Can’t Sleep,” off of her debut LP. She would conclude her first set after 18 songs with her latest single, “Nothing Can Kill Us,” a song about a lost love, that she celebrates and cherishes for the memory, rather than mourning the loss of the relationship itself with lyrics like, “I’m happy you exist, even if you sleep in a bed that’s not mine.”
The band returned for an encore after a raucous cheering and applause from the crowd, only this time donning ridiculous wigs and switching instruments. Flay, dressed in a long curly wig with shades and backwards cap, looked like Slash’s younger brother and took to the drums, as this cover band called Beef Daddy took on Blur’s “Song 2.” When each member returned to their normal places, Flay closed the night with “This Baby Don’t Cry,” and the biggest moment of the night, the hit single, “High Enough.”
As a longtime fan, it’s a great source of pride to see where Flay has come from and how much growth she has shown in both her songs and her stage performance. Not only has she never lost of sight of her goals and her vision, but she’s also so much more confident in her identity these days. She’s always had an ability to connect and captivate with an audience, she’s just getting the opportunity to do it on a much bigger stage.