Kid Koala – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 21st February 2013
He is 38 years of age and Canadian. He is a DJ practised in the art of turntablism. He arrives pre-armed with a couple of SP-1200s, three turntables and assorted gadgets from a bygone analogue age all of which probably result in him having to answer some very difficult questions each time he goes through passport control. He is supported by three dancing girls and a cast of sundry glove puppets and life-size robots, some of which appear to resemble walkie-talkies or transistor radios from the 1980s. And he dons the costume of an Australian marsupial whilst the stage is alive with the construction of a gigantic cardboard turntable, flying paper airplanes, competitions involving members of the audience and a sextet of diminutive backing singers called The Dominettes.
The man in question is Eric San, though he also goes by the name of Kid Koala, and he is here to promote his latest album 12 Bit Blues on the Vinyl Vaudeville Tour. His dancing girls are Adira Amram and The Experience (NYC). And the props and paraphernalia which surround and support them during their two hour live show all look as if they have been lovingly and creatively assembled from an assortment of household objects held together by staples and sticky back plastic, and in the case of The Dominettes adorned with green felt, pink mop-tops and luscious ruby lips.
Stood on a raised dais behind a phalanx of electrical equipment as if on the deck of the Millennium Falcon, Kid Koala is a whirr of arms and sweat as he spins scratches and samples a wild assortment of vinyl over a blueprint of the blues. Snatches of wailing guitar, rolling piano, parping saxophone, dialogue from children’s TV shows and sundry gospel choirs all fight for space in an often surreal and frenetic landscape of sound, as he reconfigures and transforms the blues into something refreshingly new yet still wholly familiar. He somehow manages to hold the balance of this difficult metamorphosis by staying true to the blues’ spirit of sadness and yearning whilst all the while playing it out against a backdrop of undiluted fun.
It is very hard to know exactly what Kid Koala’s music would be like on this tour without the cartoon cavalcade that is constantly unfolding all around him. You do suspect that the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. But whatever the outcome of that equation, the fact remains that it does work. As the conga round the Brudenell morphs into three flight attendants going through their safety drill over the grinding blues/hip hop mash-up of a riotous “8 Bit Blues” and the whole evening reaches its dizzying finale with the most ridiculous of kazoo contests, you cannot escape from the childlike innocence of the show. And nor would you want to; because this is absolutely first class entertainment that constantly defies you not to enjoy yourself.
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