Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

This Is What Going To A Sold Out Kelela Show Is Like

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 11:14 AM

click to enlarge "...and I'd do anything for the high..." - CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER CASEY
  • Credit: Christopher Casey
  • "...and I'd do anything for the high..."

The last (and only) time Kelela performed at The Independent was in 2012 when she opened for Solange. Back then, she was but a burgeoning low-fi R&B singer, and, as she confessed during Monday night's performance, was so green that she felt like she was "going to barf" for the entire performance. But things have changed a lot for the 31-year-old crooner from D.C. Since then, she's released a mixtape and an EP (Cut 4 Me and Hallucinogen, respectively) and collaborated with a slew of artists, ranging from 20-year-old Chicago singer/rapper Tink to electronic duo Teengirl Fantasy. Heck, even Bjork is a fan of hers. 

Her (sold-out) show at The Independent was packed and this reporter had to wait in line for 30 minutes just to get into the venue. Though she made us wait (she emerged on the stage almost an hour after her set time), it was worth it because Kelela is one of those rare specimens who has the capability of sounding even better live. She played all her hits (and even one new song), but perhaps the most special, memorable parts of the show were her vocal innovations. She sang none of her songs verbatim, opting instead to try out new tempos, paces, and wails, giving the songs a familiar, albeit slightly alien tinge. 

Starting with the not-so-friendly ticket booth lady who refused to give SF Weekly's photographer a ticket, this reporter jotted down persnickety notes throughout the entire night. She probably annoyed those near her with the light from her cell phone, but, oh well. Sometimes you've gotta be that girl if you want to get the story. 

(WARNING: There is a lot of 'tude in the following notes that is more of a reflection of the circumstances than it is the writer's opinion of Kelela.)

Reporter's Notes: 

This is so annoying. I've never had to wait in a half block line to get into a fucking show.

Not only that, but the woman wouldn't give me a second ticket. Then later said to me, ‘Jessie, I got permission to sell you one ticket.’ Like she was doing me a favor. Puh-lease, bish.

It's fucking freezing.

I am waiting in a line of 100 people TO GET INTO THE VENUE.

The security guy made me take out everything in my bag, i.e.: my notebook and wallet. because, of course, those items look suspicious.

Me: "Yo, bro, watch your backpack." 

Lots of fabulously hip gay men.

Lots of people sporting half shaved heads, braids and dreads.

Mmmm I would love some gummy bears right now.
click to enlarge Kelela brought it last night. - CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER CASEY
  • Credit: Christopher Casey
  • Kelela brought it last night.

Very mixed crowd in terms of fashion sense, ethnicity, age, and sexuality.

She was supposed to go on at 9:30. It's 9:40. Please make us wait, Kelela.

This is lazy. They don't even have a DJ playing the music. Just a table with four water bottles and a laptop.

I just realized that I OFTEN dream of shopping at thrift stores.

I just realized that I’m so bored waiting for Kelela that I’m reflecting on my dreams.

I hate everything RN.

It's 20 minutes past 9:30.

Girl:” I didn't come here to wait in line and stand in a crowd for 30 minutes.” (rolls eyes)

Chris just discovered that all the weed had fallen out of the baggy and into the nether regions of his backpack.

So not cool, Kelela.

I can't believe I saw a girl wearing a Davy Crockett raccoon tail hat at breakfast yesterday.

Now I’m reflecting on my breakfast the other day. #standingandwaitingisnotfun

I'm not sure whom I should dislike more RN: The Independent or Kelela?

It's 10:07, so now she's officially rude.

I feel like the White Rabbit with how often I'm glancing at the clock. (Although, let's be honest: it's an iPhone, not a clock).

Ugh, I'm just imagining how loud everyone is gonna be when she finally walks on stage.

10:11 when the bleached blonde DJ walks onto the stage.

10:13 and Kelela, wearing a white tee and folded over overalls, FINALLY comes onstage.

What is this song? I’ve never heard it. It’s amazing. It strikes the perfect balance of dance, pop and industrial.

By the middle of the FIRST SONG I realize how amazing she is and get shivers. Seriously, though. Legit shivers. The deep rumbling bass that is rattling my bones may or may not have something to do with this.

First song isn’t even over and I’m already forgetting all the bad, annoying stuff from before the show.


Why do I love Kelela so much?
 Although everyone else here does, too. They’re loud AF with their oohing and aahing and cheering and clapping.

What a voice! What an amazing live musical experience! The combination of the pulsing bass, the piercing vocals, and the geometric light projections makes you realize that THIS is why people pay money and wait in lines and cram together on a dance floor to see a show.
  • Credit: Christopher Casey

Unfortunately, I have a hyper dancer / loud talker directly in front of me. Good thing she’s short though.

It's astounding how loud and profound the applause is as she plays successively more popular / well-known songs. 

Kelela tells the crowd a story about how three years ago she performed here opening for Solange and how it was a nauseating experience. 

She asks the audience, ‘Who here learned about me from that performance? Who here learned about me through my mixtapes? Who here has no fucking idea who I am?’ (the loudest applause/cheer comes from the mixtape option….gotta admit, I learned about her through her mixtapes, too).

She tells us how to pronounce her name. It’s kuh-lel-uh. Girl in front of me turns to guy next to her and says, “I told you!”

Ugh, the crowd is singing along.

Her sound is much less industrial live. 

Instead of silences or fade outs between songs, she does cool vocal transitions (welps, yelps, wails, coos, caws…). 

She’s singing slowed-down versions of her songs that then gradually speed-up to their regular tempo.
click to enlarge Kelela is so magical she shoots beams of lights out of her armpits. - CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER CASEY
  • Credit: Christopher Casey
  • Kelela is so magical she shoots beams of lights out of her armpits.

She is an incredibly sexy dancer. Meow. I could learn a thing or two from her.

Kelela tells us that three years ago she was an "office bitch."

Ew, this is the kind of crowd that yells during a moment of silence, We love you!

So many people are gonna go home and bone to Kelela’s mixtapes. Mark my words.

That's cool: She went down onto the floor and is now amongst the audience singing. A stampede of people crowd around her.

Kelela and Kat Dahlia both sing with their eyes shut. Guess that makes them better?

There's some pretty awesome/trippy light protections going on. Triangular beams of light in hues of purple and blue are slicing through her
torso or hovering  just above her head. Reminds me of the cover art for Cut 4 Me, actually.

Realizing now that my favorite Kelela songs are “Rewind” and The High.” Runner-ups are “Send Me Out” and “A Message.”

So much singing along from the audience. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie.

Not the longest set, but I'm gonna give her the benefit of the doubt: Maybe it's hard on her voice

People are calling for an encore and, since the lights still aren't on, its clear that we'll get one ... eventually…

Just realized I’ve been so transfixed by her that I haven’t budged an inch from where I’m standing the entire time.

Confession: Caught myself singing along, too, at times. #cringes.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Jessie Schiewe

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"