LIVE: Kimya Dawson, Backspace, Portland, OR

kimyaKimya Dawson // Photo Credit: Darren Hicks

By Darren Hicks

When i arrived at Backspace last Tuesday evening i came across a sight I’ve begun to see more often at this particular venue: A line out the door and halfway down the street. A long succession of people (now referred to by me as Tweeplosion) were awaiting their stamps and bracelets for the night to come. When i finally entered the building, i noticed somethingIi’ve NEVER seen at Backspace. The place was near to at capacity, most everyone sitting cross-legged on the floor. The 10% or so of us standing were constantly (and rather politely as well) asked to keep the walkway clear, in case of fire marshal intervention. Our opener was onstage as people were filing in. Alex (i forget the last name): the Professional Zaniac. Your everyday boardwalk variety act. There was juggling, balancing (also while juggling!), breaking celery stalks with playing cards, and because why not, some borderline contact juggling with a hat! All while spouting the best “dad” jokes one could possibly offer to a large group of indie kids.

After the zaniness, Paul Baribeau graced the stage. His stage demeanor was very, very laid back. Before each song, he’d briefly explain what the song was about. This came in forms of anecdotes a la VH1 Storytellers, or just in general theme.

Kimya took the stage a short while after. She played a great mix of things. There were a few children’s songs played. Not out of place seeing that many people arrived with their little ones in tow. Among the songs was the title track to her children’s record “Alphabutt”. Other highlights were “I Like Bears” (“a song about big, hairy, gay men”), “Same Shit/Complicated”, “Singing Machine”, and toward the end, a greatly expanded version of “Tire Swing” accompanied by Baribeau and complete with Michael McDonald impersonation, which sounded more like Cookie Monster but kudos to Mrs. Dawson for the effort. Between songs were stories of her daughter, Panda, their road trips and their song choices on them (among them being the fantastic “Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monae) and their school adventures with neighbor Alex the Professional Zaniac! Revelatory! And the mystery as to “why is that guy here?” is solved.
Also included were frequent allusions to Jewel, Bonnie Tyler, Avril Lavigne and others. One of the final songs she played was a seemingly on-the-fly cover mashup of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” and Jewel’s “Hands”. The last line sung of the evening: “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” And the last roar of applause sounds as we’re all left to ponder that impossible question.

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