Kawehi at the Hotel Café: smiles, trash talk, and a loop machine
(Hollywood) When Kawehi comes on stage it is her smile that first grabs you. It’s a friendship smile…she is happy to be there and she is happy to be there with you – yes, you. This is not just a gig supporting her new Kickstarter-funded album, Interaktiv; this is 250 friends kicking back and having a great time with their favorite artist in a sold-out concert at the Hotel Café Friday night.
Kawehi navigated her way around various pieces of musical equipment and technological gear as she came onstage, but all the while she kept that smile. After getting settled in front of her keyboards, loop machines and computers, she greeted friends and fans with waves and shout outs. We were hooked, even before she played the first note.
When she did play that first note, we were more than hooked; we were ecstatic. She set the hook with “Smoke Screens,” launching a trap beat and then dancing around the stage, checking the connection to her guitar, putting her magic hands on the keyboard while she sang Cover me in diamonds/ Cover me in gold/ You get what you pay for/ You get what you sow. The crowd sang along, a tribute to how popular the brand new album was. She followed with a mashup of “Afternoon Delight”/”Dancing in the Moonlight”/”Sail” and “Parachute,” bringing together the disparate words and tunes of Bill DanHoff, King Harvest, Awolnation, and Cheryl Cole with a backing loop while she sang the lyrics. Her live voice synched up with her looped voice in perfect timing, and she and the audience laughed together as it happened.
The laugh-factor moved up a notch when she introduced “Interwebz2.0” from her Evolution and Robot Heart albums. A self-described “shit-talker” she couldn’t keep a straight face while she explained that the song was about fucking and admitted with a grin that, well, porn happens on the interwebz and she knows all about it. As a star who was launched on the internet, she went on to note that she would not be standing on the stage that night without the interwebz.
Staying with the explicit theme, she picked up the guitar and moved on to “Troll,” a song made up of words from nasty insults left on her social media page by internet trolls. She delivered it in a little-girl plaintive voice that added punch to the lines “Don’t think you know me /think you own me/ ‘cause you saw me on a video.” The song is powerful on the Evolution album; it hits you in the stomach when she sings it live.
“Pop Song,” one of the seven songs on the Interaktiv album, followed and segued into “Anthem” from Robot Heart, both delivered with Kawehi’s trademark joy and mischievous smile. They flowed perfectly into a mashup of “Corporation Disco Party”/”Not Another Lame Fight Song,” also from the Evolution and Interaktiv albums. She put a cherry on top of the night by wrapping with “The Way You Make Me Feel,” pulling the audience in on the chorus and raising the energy in the room to the ceiling.
A DIY musician who is her own label, Kawehi fled LA’s expensive living for Lawrence, Kansas – an unusual place for a trash-talking, electronic-rocking, irreverent-singing Asian girl from Hawaii. But she was at home and in control of the stage at the Hotel Café Friday night like she had never left — eight albums and various singles and successful Kickstarter campaigns ago. Half of the evening she was conducting a sing-a-long, waving her long arms between pivots around keyboard, loop machine and computer. The other half she was telling stories, swearing with a mischievous smile, and dancing. Kawehi’s performance almost makes me want to follow the tour. Maybe I will catch her when she performs in Hawaii… it would be worth the airfare just for another Kawehi concert.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!
Interaktive available on Bandcamp and streamed on Spotify