King Woman Exorcises Demons Through Celestial Blues At The Lodge Room
LOS ANGELES, CA- Kris Esfandiari is a musical chamelion. The first time I was made aware of her was when I saw her perform as Miserable; a really heavy, shoegaze band. I was really impressed with the suffering she expressed that evening with Miserable’s music, so I did a deep dive on the internet to learn more about her… and that dive was indeed deep, and revealed lots of facets of her musicality.
Not only did Kris play in the world of shoegaze, but she also created hip hop (Dalmatian), experimental industrial (NGHTCRWLR), and R&B (Sugar High). In fact, during the first (and hopefully the only) pandemic lockdown, I had Sugar High’s “Alone” on one of my playlists. Their 2020 EP Love Addict is a really lovely work of art. Though the genres vary, all of Kris’ music, in whatever incarnation, carries heavy tones, musically and lyrically. King Woman’s music kind of straddles the line between Miserable and NGHTCRWLR, with equal parts shoegaze and metal. On July 30th, 2021, Kris and her musical incarnation of King Woman would grace the Lodge Room’s stage for the first of two sold-out nights celebrating the release of King Woman’s sophomore album, Celestial Blues.
Clocking In at close to 41 minutes, the 9 tracks of Celestial Blues feels like an exploration into personal darkness and conflict, particularly in the realm of religion, the mystical, and self-realization. I took a moment to read through all of the lyrics of the album, in order, and I can confidently say that you’ll do yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to the album the way Kris put it together, track for track, sequentially. Kris is really telling the story of a protagonist’s spiritual journey and the album is that much more rewarding when having that context in mind. Some college kid could probably write an awesome term paper about that journey, so I’ll leave that to someone else … but if you want to do your own deep dive into Celestial Blues, you can CLICK HERE to read the lyrics. If you are a fan of King Woman, I think you’ll like the trip.
The first band to take the stage was a band named Divine. I don’t know much about this opening act. I couldn’t find any information about the band, or its members, on the internet, and none of the artists on Spotify with the name “Divine” fit this band’s sound.
The lead singer gave this mysterious band a mysterious introduction taking the stage wearing a flesh-like clown mask. Their sound seemed to cover a wide range of styles, from punk to metal to garage rock, even adding in a little funk/soul to close out their set. Their lead singer did a reasonably good job keeping the audience on its toes, climbing atop speakers, and jumping off the stage and into the audience while singing. I wished, however, that when he sang, he didn’t have his back to the audience, facing the drums, as much. I think the intensity of each of the songs could have been better served, even wearing the mask, if that energy was addressed to the audience.
It was a fun performance, but it was hard for me to get a sense of what the band was really all about. The mask, while intriguing at the start, only seemed to distract me from the music itself. With the masking coming off towards the later part of the set, it really didn’t seem to serve and true purpose and seemed a bit superfluous.
As mentioned earlier, they closed their set with a song that added an element of funk/soul when a vocalist joined them on stage to sing the hook. It kind of gave me a bit of a Mr. Bungle vibe, and I liked that.
I mentioned this in my most recent Instagram post, but I’m a big fan of Spare Parts For Broken Hearts. I love their music, and I love them as humans as well. I really thought 2020 was going to be a break-out year for them, as they were really hitting their stride… but alas, Covid and lockdowns.
2020 notwithstanding, I’ve still got my money on Spare Parts. Earlier this year, the band announced that they had finished recording vocals for the last track on the album, and I’m anxiously waiting for the day where I press the “accept” button for my preorder of the album. If you are looking for hard-hitting, emotive rock music, you need to give this band a listen.
For this performance, Sarah (lead guitars & vox), Jonny (bass), and Jessica (drums) treated the audience to a sampling of what I anticipate will be on their forthcoming album. The only previously released tracks they played were “Cold Wave” (2020) and “Pleasure Delay” (2016). The rest of their six-song set was “Anniversary, “Silence”, “Disheveled” and “Self Help”. If you’ve been seeing them live, I’m sure you’ve seen some of those songs, or at least versions of them, performed before.
With Jessica ferociously banging the kit, and Jonny giving the photographers all of the hair action they could handle as he wildly shreds his bass, the energy of their performance stirred life into my veins. But the real highlight, for me at least, was the command of Sarah’s vocals. It could be that I’m just overhyping it because I hadn’t seen them live in over a year, but I think she really nailed it on this night. On “the only ballad on [the] album“, when Sarah wailed out the “goodbye” in the chorus of “Disheveled”, I had to stop taking pictures and tape what I could on my phone. The way that Sarah’s voice gives in with a little vibrato, revealing that hint of frailty… Goosebumps, man, goosebumps. Powerful stuff.
Kris Esfandiari’s time on stage was short-lived. In fact, she didn’t perform a single song on the stage. For this performance, she decided to perform her entire set in the crowd. Patrons of the following evening’s performance wouldn’t be privy to this type of intimacy, so to say that we got to experience something special on this evening, would be fair.
For her set, she played almost the entirety of Celestial Blues, save “Ruse”. She also played two tracks off of King Woman’s debut album, Created In The Image Of Suffering (“Utopia” and “Manna”) and “Burn” (the million streamed single off of her 2015 EP Doubt).
With the audience circled around her, and the saturating purple and red lights swathing the concert hall, the aura of the room became spiritualized. It was like we were performing, with Kris, a rite of passage or spiritual ceremony. As Kris wailed out the lyrics to her music, it was almost as if was trying to purge herself of a certain, deep-seated pain. That sentiment was particularly powerful towards the end of her set when she performed “Psychic Wound”. As she screamed out the chorus, “Help me, I’m so chained to you/Someone tell me what to do/Ah, ah, ah, ah/Feeling like a psychic wound,” It truly felt like an emotional exorcism.
Kris only broke the intensity of the performance a couple of times throughout the performance, once early on asking for an adjustment to her mix, and later when she thanked all of her friends and family who were in the crowd sharing in the moment, and what a powerful moment it was.
VIDEO CLIPS FROM EVENING