Perhaps the most illuminating moment of Kid Koala’s DJ set last night at the Republik — at least in terms of contextualizing the event in the pop-culture continuum (the kind of pastime eggheads who write about this stuff favour engaging in over, you know, dancing and stuff…) — happened not inside as the Montreal turntablist spun his wares, but out on the sidewalk within eavesdropping range of two doormen.
“What a concept,” joked one of them, referring to a DJ who actually used turntables. “Yeah, but he’s old enough that he had to do it that way,” opined the other — adding that kids into the likes of Odd Future would probably be all “what the fuck” if they were to witness the increasingly antiquated proceedings inside the club.
Indeed, Koala’s set, in presentation anyway, was markedly different than the openers, Typist and Rusty Meeks, who plied this trade with invisible hands behind the now-ubiquitous glowing apple on their MacBooks.
The two video screens on either side of the stage, rendered useless during the laptop portion of the evening, came alive with the arrival of Koala — the bird’s eye view projections revealing the dexterous mixer manipulation and vinyl trickery of the Kid’s fast hands.
Very cool, but as for the actual music of the set…. Well, the crowd sure liked it, and so did I, occasionally. A Kid Koala solo DJ set, you see, is a very different beast than that of the artist who crafts the often melancholic sound collages on releases like Some of My Best Friends Are DJs , Space Cadet , and the recent (and pretty awesome) 12-Bit Blues (which he is touring with in other parts of North America with a “Vinyl Vaudeville Show.” Hopefully, it makes its way here eventually).
The Koala of last night was in party rocker mode, and for the most part, whether he was dropping old-school hip hop (Sugarhill Gang) or dancehall (Warrior Queen), the cuts were fun if not revelatory.
At times, though, the show veered a little too close to straight—up frat rock mode. I mean… Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of”? Really?
(If that sounds to you like the kind of sniffy criticism made by the type of killjoy trainspotter who stands at the back of the club with crossed arms while everyone at the front goes nuts with appreciation… Well, you’d be exactly right. That’s how critics roll — dour and suspicious of people having a good time. At least I’ve come to terms with it.)
Still, it was pretty tough to be po-faced when Koala played a track from his collaboration with the kids show Y o Gabba Gabba ; informing us that it was his daughter’s favourite song and encouraging all to party like “a four year old.” With that, he left the decks for the front of stage and led the throng in pretty hilarious aerobics routine for toddlers.
Then he segued into Slayer.
There you go: showmanship and versatility — a few quibbles over song selections aside, this Kid was alright.