LOS ANGELES, CA- I’m not going to lie… when I got the notice that Kat Von D was set to jump into the music scene as a recording artist, I rolled my eyes. My gut was telling me, “Here we go again. Another celebrity trying to use their social cachet to dabble in something that catches their fancy.” But when I played her first single, “Exorcism”, I did a double-take. Its pulsing rhythm and synth-driven dark mood had me catch a feeling. It was pretty damn good.
When I started to scour the web to learn more about her new music, I realized that this was no passing fancy for Kat Von D. Not only did I discover that she’s actually a classically trained pianist, she’s had a “who’s who” of music legends collaborate with her along the way. Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters), Danny Lohner (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), and Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes) all worked with Kat at some point throughout the creative process, which started back in 2012. She even has Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy featured on the track “Protected”.
During the pandemic, she hunkered down with another select group of amazing musicians to complete her musical vision and to bring that vision to life for the stage. Gregg Foreman aka Mr. Pharmacist (Cat Power, The Gossip), Sammi Doll (Bullet Height, IAMX), Dave Parley (Prayers), and Brynn Route (contortionist) all helped to complete the recording process and what resulted was an impressive debut album, Love Made Me Do It.
Love Made Me Do It is a solid contribution to the electronic music genre. Its general tone is what you would expect from Kat: dark, moody, and gothic. Kat doesn’t have Adele-like, powerhouse pipes, but what she does have is a steady timbre that sets a constant mood throughout the album’s 12 tracks. Her steady alto voice never wavers, and when it effortlessly weaves itself through the animated synth elements of each track, the contrast creates a perfect kind of tension. A musical yin and yang. Even when the tempo speeds up, the mood is rooted in her dulcet vocals.
My favorite cuts from the album tend to lean darker in tone. The ominous, opening keyboard progression and the moody vocals of “Vanish” as Kat sings “I’m living with these lies that only I believe” set a powerful tone for the album. I love the brooding drum programming and the haunting bridge of vocal harmonies that resolve into the bridge in “Fear You”. And the album’s closer, “The Calling”? That song, which is perhaps the album’s most downtempo track, is filled with perfectly placed diminished chords, and the haunting audio of the 50s television character Vampira, and leaving us with that haunting tension that has the listener longing for more.
Kat Von D is married to Leafar Seyar, and the audience at The Belasco was treated to a solid opening set from his band, Prayers. Comprised of Leafar and Dave Parley (who pulled double duty also playing drums for Kat), Prayers served up their brand of “cholo-goth” to an adoring crowd.
Accompanied on stage by Mr. Chino, who stood stoically center stage throughout the performance, as if he was guarding the duo, Prayers performed a set of their most anthemic songs. From “Ready To Bleed” to “From Dog to God”, fans in the audience shouted the lyrics along with Leafar. It’s well known that Prayers’ music is firmly rooted in Mexican heritage and life’s hardships, and you could really get a sense that everyone in the room was deeply connected to all of the lyrics. When Leafar sang in Spanish, a language that I regretfully did not learn, you got the sense that the volume of the crowd’s voice got a few decibels louder.
Considering Kat recorded the Prayers song “Black Leather” back in 2017, I was almost expecting her to join her husband on stage for that song … alas, that didn’t happen. While they haven’t released any new music since their 2020 single “La Vida Es Un Sueno” if the room that evening was any indication, there is a huge contingent waiting for them to drop some more anthemic bangers to sing along to.
While I was already familiar with Kat Von D’s television persona, I was taken aback by how well she commanded the Belasco stage. Sure, she was accompanied by a stellar backing band, as well as the contortionist extraordinaire Brynn Route, but she handled her own with a graceful poise that lent itself to the music that she was performing.
She knew when to stand firm center stage, projecting the emotions of the lyrics. She knew when to twirl around the stage in her billowing dresses (she did a wardrobe change mid-set from black to red) to allow the dance elements of her music to take center stage. She knew how to move her body to the mood of the music, especially with her arms/hands. She knew when to allow her bandmates to have a moment to shine during certain musical passages. She knew her way around that stage, and it felt natural.
The stage production (lighting) was definitely on point for her performance. Every song seemed to have its own specific lighting cues, and it really breathed extra life into each composition. She performed almost all of the songs from her album (except the Peter Murphy duet and “Easier Sung Than Said”). For one of her encores, she performed a cover of Placebo’s “Without You I’m Nothing”.
This performance was extremely well-put-together. The thoughtfulness in every element of the production was … in my humble opinion … carefully manicured for the desired effect of having the audience leave utterly satisfied with not only the music but also the spectacle. The time that Kat Von D spent developing the music and the live show during lockdowns clearly paid dividends as this performance was above reproach.
Kat Von D recently (as of October 15th, 2021), announced that she was leaving Los Angeles to move to rural Indiana. She will be closing her beloved tattoo shop, High Voltage Tatoo, and will only be back in LA to record music with her friends. That being said, I feel quite privileged that I was able to attend and photograph this performance at The Belasco. Obviously, after she finished recording her next album, I’m sure she’ll be performing in Los Angeles again, but this performance feels almost like a curtain call for her time in Los Angeles, and what a wonderful curtain call it was.