Last night, Cindy and I traveled to Pontiac, Michigan to see Kawehi perform at the Pike Room at The Crofoot
. I’ll kill the lede right now by saying that her performance and those of the two openers totally made the 90-minute drive worth it.Opener 1: EleanoraWeb: Eleanora.bandcamp.comTwitter: @EleanoraLive
The first opening act was a Detroit-area group called Eleanora. Their twitter describes them as a mix of R&B, Folk, and Rock. I’m not even sure if that’s exactly accurate, but I am sure that Leah Dunstan and Julia Stephenson are a powerful vocal duo that don’t have any problem playing guitar or violin as the need requires. Their Bandcamp page linked above will let you hear some of their music. I think they’re going to get some exposure with their next EP because the tracks they played from it were sarcastic and emotionally resonant.Opener 2: CassaundraWeb: Cassaundra.comYoutube: CassaundramusicTwitter: @Cassaundrafitch
Talk about not judging a book by its cover. The second act, Cassaundra, walks up to the stage and your initial impression is “This awkward 22 year-old that looks 16 is totally going to do bubblegum pop isn’t she?” And then, about 3 seconds into her first song you realize what an ass you were for underestimating her, because she’s a soul singer with pipes not unlike Joss Tone. I was floored and am incredulous at how a major label hasn’t picked her up. On the way home, we seriously had her 5 song acoustic EP on loop the entire drive.
Another audience member recorded this portion of her performance, and I think it sums up the juxtaposition of her demeanor and singing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH08JQG80Lo The Main Event: KawehiWeb: Kawehi.comYoutube: VideoHalls - aka I Am KawehiTwitter: @iamkawehi
When Kawehi took the stage, the 50 or so of us in the audience were already amped up from the brilliant opening acts. Her first song was an original, “Like Her,” from her Robot Heart album. She quickly followed with her lusty rendition of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a waifish 5’6” woman of Hawaiian ancestry perform a song in which one of the main lyrics is “I want to f**k you like an animal; I want to feel you from the inside.”
If you’re not familiar with what Kawehi does, she is basically a modern one woman band. They call the technique “looping,” in which a performer records each portion of the song in bits until they’re able to sing over the whole thing. Kawehi will first lay in an electronic beat or perhaps some beatboxing. Then, she’ll record another vocal effect or a couple lines of background vocal. Ultimately, she’ll sing over the whole thing, often playing the guitar at the same time. She does it all on the fly and the end result is amazing. For an example, I snapped this very bad cell phone video of her original song, "Like Her": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxLVY6tjXoc
You should probably go check out her own Youtube for clearer examples. Or just wait a few days until the folks who seemed to record THE ENTIRE concert on their phones finally upload their footage.
After “Closer,” she launched into two back-to-back mashups. The first primarily combined Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” The second incorporated so many songs and transitions that I couldn’t possibly name them all.
My two other favorites from her set were renditions of Sia’s “Chandelier” and Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” Her take on Chandelier is so much better than the original, it’s not even funny. You can find a recording of it on YouTube, and while that still doesn’t quite get across how killer it is done live, you’ll still understand why it’s an amazing cover. As for Heart Shaped Box, it’s pretty much in my genetic code as a Seattle native to take it right in the feels when anyone perform that song. That said, Kawehi manages to make it gritty, futuristic, and brooding without hurting the underlying angst that’s so key to its personality.
After the show, we stood in a very short line to get the chance to talk to Kawehi and buy some merch. To say she is gracious to her fans is putting it lightly. When I got up there, even before I had the chance to introduce myself, she said, “Frank, right?” I can only imagine the look of shock on my face. As it was, I could only respond with, “Yes, uh, wow…” She went on to explain that she tries to remember all of her fans. We’d never met before, but I have made a few posts on her Facebook page and backed three of her Kickstarters. She knew who I was based that, which is incredible to me given that she’s had thousands of backers and has more than 100,000 Youtube subscribers. We had a very pleasant conversation, though I have to admit it was more chit-chatty than substantive.
As I was picking out CDs to buy, she knew which ones I already had and gave suggestions on others. I mentioned that I wanted to get my friend Elle, who lives out of state, a CD. Kawehi remembered Elle from her own backer purchases and even commented on Elle’s recent Facebook posts, asking me how she was doing. And then, on top of all that, once she had picked out and signed two CDs for Elle, she wouldn’t let me pay for them! I’ve always loved Kawehi’s spirit as an independent musician but to see her exhibit in-person her attachment and generosity toward her fans was moving. I believe “dumbstruck” would be a good term to use for the gibberish coming out of my mouth by that point.
The night was totally worth $15 per ticket and a 90-minute drive each way.