Last week, it was my birthday. Perhaps you were aware of that, since it’s the most important day on our modern Gregorian calendar, Anyway, for my birthday, guitar virtuoso Kaki King decided to come to Burlington and play a show for me, along with some other people I didn’t invite (like that drunk guy in the red T-shirt).
Kaki King is a fave of mine. I like the way she loves her guitar into submission. And I like that she’s not your typical singer-songwriter, any-old-strummer-with-a-heartbreak-and-a-guitar kind of musician. She’s slick and witty and her guitar-playing face is what I imagine her O-face to look like. Even better.
Of course, I arrived at the show a bit late and missed the opener, a brilliant little Australian duo called An Horse (the second time I’ve missed their opening act. Apologies, Aussie friends.) When I got there, Kaki was already three songs into an ambitious two-hour set.
The show was amazing — lots of distortion, muscular guitar-playing and Kaki took off one of her shirts. Bonus! (Creepy). Since it was her last show before a little break from touring, she and her band were punchy and making all kinds of inside jokes that only I got. Ok, I didn’t get any of them and I felt a little lost. Then she took out a sock puppet and I became squeamish.
She told the crowd that she was going to have a dancing contest and that the winner would get the sock puppet. Now, clearly, I didn’t want some raggedy-ass sock with some Sharpie scribbled on it. But dance contest? That’s a different thing entirely. I would win at any cost.
During one of her last songs, Kaki sat down to play the lap guitar and looped her own tunes over and over again. Once she had looped a sufficiently layered beat, she jumped off stage and into the crowd. “Oh, god,” I thought, “here is my chance to win the dance contest and Kaki’s esteem.”
I should mention for those of you who aren’t best friends with Kaki that she’s very small. Down on the floor with us plebes, she looked like a tiny sprite, albeit with smokey eyes and a banging little body. Is that too much? Perhaps.
Once on the floor, Kaki started dancing. Most of us were too shy to go near her, except for the aforementioned drunk guy in the red T-shirt. Now this guy had pretty much been a grade-A dingleberry for the entire show. He had been spasmodically fist-pumping during even the most quiet of slow songs. Much of the crowd in the front could not avert their eyes from this human trainwreck, who must have slurped back five mixed drinks during the show, which Kaki told me later is not that much. Right, if you’re alcoholic who sweats gin.
As Kaki was dancing, red T-shirt went up to her and started moving his hips like an elderly man doing the jitterbug. Then, in an instant, Kaki grabbed two fistfuls of his red T-shirt and started shoving him around. She was very clearly smaller than him, yet whipped him around like a rag doll. At that point I saw my chancing of winning the dance contest diminish significantly. She was intent on pounding the stuffing out of him.
After maybe a minute of this — Kaki dragging this poor drunk boy all over the dance floor — she hopped back up on stage to finish the song. Then, at the end of the set, she declared red T-shirt the winner. Ok, by my finely tuned standards, dude wasn’t dancing. He was tripping over his feet and following where Kaki’s fists were leading him. Whatever.
Clearly, a grave miscarriage of justice had been committed. I was the rightful winner of the dance contest, or rather would have been had I not been upstaged by an inebriated college kid. After the show, I approached Kaki about this. I’d a like to share with you an abridged transcript of our conversation.
Me: Hey, thanks for a great show. But I’m pretty bummed I didn’t win the dance contest.
Kaki: (saucily) Well, you should have come up and danced.
Me: I was too afraid of getting pummeled like that drunk guy in the red T-shirt. You beat the shit out of him.
Kaki: That guy was an asshole. He stole underwear from the merch table.
Now at this point, the topic of the conversation shifted. I’m not sure how, but all of the sudden we started talking about how Kaki shaved her girlfriend’s cat. No, this isn’t code for something — she actually did that.
Kaki: (mid-convo) …like when I shaved my girlfriend’s cat when I was drunk. She got so pissed at me.
Me: Wait, you shaved your girlfriend’s cat? Did you just leave the fur on it’s head so it looked like a lion?
Kaki: Yeah. It was the summer and I figured the cat was hot, so shaved it. And I only nicked him once. But she flipped out because there was a little scab of blood on his back.
Me: I’m assuming you’re not with this person anymore.
Kaki: Well, if you listen to the last song on the new album, you’ll find out. (oooh, point for a nice product plug, Kaki!)
Me: What was the cat’s name?
Me: With one T or two?
Kaki: Two. Like Joan Jett. (Groaning) Who names their cat that? She just couldn’t handle me shaving her cat.
Me: So it was like ‘If you can’t handle me shaving your cat, then you can’t handle me!”?
Kaki: (Throwing head back laughing. Point, Lauren.)
Now, this whole time, I’ve been ramping up to ask if Kaki will oblige me with a photo. It is my birthday after all. It is a well-known fact that I never take pictures with famous people because it’s embarrassing and I never know whether to put my arm around them or just do the weird lean-in. But finally, I asked her.
Me: (awkwardly) Could I trouble you for a photo?
I hand the camera off to her trombonist and Kaki inches towards me. And then she keeps inching to where she’s practically leaning on me. Because I am a little uncomfortable with strangers touching me, I needed to mediate the situation.
Me: So when people take pictures with you, do they, like, put their arm around you? Because that’s sort of weird when people you don’t know just touch you and get in your personal space, right?
Kaki: Do you want to put your arm around me? Because I’m feeling like I want to be embraced right now.
Well, ok then. You don’t need to ask me twice. I put my giant arm around her pixie shoulder and then all of the sudden, she grabbed me around the waist with both arms and snuggled her head against my chest/padded bra.
At this point, I could neither breath nor smile like a normal human. Not because I was all like “Oh my god, Kaki King is hugging me,” but because I was all like “Oh my god, Kaki King is grabbing my fat. Now she’ll never want to date me. Rats!”
After what seemed like three months of me holding my breath and worrying about whether Kaki could smell fear, the trombonist (a most awesome fella named Lennie Peterson) snapped the photo and that was that.
In the picture, I look like an ogre who has captured a beautiful mini-maiden and forced her to like me. But it was a most excellent way to end my birthday. Thanks to all who made it such a swell day.