When you're King Khan, and you've been fronting explosively energetic garage revival bands since the mid-90s, maybe you get tired sometimes. I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly from all the middle-finger-flipping hype of a King Khan show, but Khan looked flat-out bored as he howled and cackled "666" into his mic on KEXP's "TuneIn Stage" Saturday afternoon.
- 666..........666.... zZZzZzzZZzzzZzzzZZz
Mr. Khan strolls onstage as if he were taking a walk in the park after his band of stellar musicians, the Shrines, spews out a disgustingly psychedelic funk-soul intro. Clad in a bedazzled headdress three times the size of his head, he politely asks the crowd (comprised of mostly teens in face paint, burly alt-bros (?), and Bellevue soccer moms in chiffon floral dresses) to "please shake your ass", and it's a shockingly demure request from the man who may be most famous for immortalizing his bare ass next to Lindsey Lohan's face in a photograph. Still, an older couple in front of me recognize this isn't their "scene" and evacuate while two burly alt-bros (?) on either side of me thrash into me as they grind into their lady companions.
Now, about the headdress. Let's get something straight: Born Arish Ahmad Khan to an Indo-Canadian family in Montreal, King Khan is NOT a Native American. I repeat: King Khan was born in the Americas but is not ethnically tied to its indigenous population, so what's with the headdress? Sure, feathers are pretty— flashy, even, that's why birds use 'em to attract mates— but you gotta be respectful of other people's cultures, ya dig? There's something called "native appropriation" and it involves not misusing a traditional garment by pairing it with a sparkly gold v-neck from American Apparel, studded cuffs, and "bone" necklace as part of your stage act (or every day act).
Throughout the set, which contained a sort of Shakespearean ode called "Took My Lady To Dinner" with the chorus "She's fat and she's ugly/ but I love her" and many an oversexed-without-being-sexy number, I also found myself getting politically defensive: why is he implying that larger women need his validation or his dinners? "Fat" is not synonymous with "ugly" (two incredibly subjective words, by the way!) and by this point I'm not sure whether I'm more annoyed by his Feminist-fuming sentiments or his "costume."
King Khan: 0
The Shrines: .5 (they are still wearing the "bone" necklaces but likely had no choice)
- BARI SAX TO THE WORLD
The Shrines are the single redeeming aspect of the show, a high-energy tractor beam of spaced-out psychedelic glory to totally eclipse Sir Khan. On the second-to-last song, Khan half-assedly insists "let me take you on a trip", but the Shrines— three horn players, a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, aux percussionist, and a drummer— were the only ones capable of that on this afternoon. My only complaint is maybe less trumpet from Danny Masterson aka Steven Hyde from That 70's Show (okay not really but check out that stache!) and more Bari sax, because GIMME MORE BARI SAX ALL THE TIME. King Khan's magic-bus entourage is even complete with long-haired Bohemian girls playing tambourines on the sidestage. And by the end of the set, the keyboardist is jumping around the stage like a teen at his first rave, even taking a sec to breakdance centerstage. He solidifies his wigged-out presence by being the lone crowd-surfer, and promptly kicks me in the face since I'm hell of oblivious and have one hand dedicated to furious note-taking.
King Khan: 0
The Shrines: 9
I only caught one other set for the day, and that was from thee ladies of THEEsatisfaction. Their seductive psych hip hop out-souled and out-funked the hell out of King Khan. The day's conclusion: THEESatisfaction are bringing more soul to Seattle than King Khan or his stupid headdress have brought to anyone recently (even his German supermodel wife).
King Khan: 0
The Shrines: 9.5