K.Flay Slays At Electric Brixton

Kristine FlahertyAKA K.Flay – is unapologetically a weirdo. She spins and flails onstage, and at one point lies on her back and cycles her legs, kicking in time to the music. Flay’s weirdness speaks to her fans directly. “How many people consider themselves to be weird, strange, left of centre?” She calls to exultant cheers. “You’ve gotta nurture that shit,” she answers herself with a triumphant grin, “That shit is your superpower.” Musically and personally she is completely herself, and for one night in Brixton, we were privileged enough to be introduced to her.

K.Flay @ Electric Brixton

K.Flay @ Electric Brixton (Kalpesh Patel)
K.Flay @ Electric Brixton (Kalpesh Patel)

Flay has a lot to celebrate on this tour. Last year she was diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss and labyrithitis, and after rounds of unsuccessful treatment she is now fully deaf in her right ear. However, a force of nature like Flay cannot be stopped so easily. Only a month ago she released her latest album, MONO. She opens with her autobiographical explanation of her recent history, Are You Serious?, stalking in from the raised platform and channelling her full nineties female rage. Accompanied by live bass and drums, she jerks like a puppet that’s lost it’s strings. She flips instantly between poetic solemnity and underground bass heartbeats.

The 38-year-old treats her audience like long lost friends, explaining the singles as she goes. She had a crush on someone, she reveals, and sent them her single Shy to show her feelings. Luckily it worked, and they ‘started dating’. “If you have some shit inside you, put it out into the world! Be fuckin’ brave!” She laughs before launching into a re-worked version of Shy. It’s pure loveliness, all openness and honesty, a confession from a punk rock Amy Winehouse. She does heartbreak songs achingly well. Hustler is sweet and bitter live like poison candy. Dividing the stage in two with coloured spotlight divides her sound but the shared grief she invokes in all of us brings us together. Empty, hollow percussion echoes build as she picks herself back up. The tempo climbs as Can’t Sleep begins, and her buzzing samples sting as they meander through the air. “Gimme fucking Zen,” she screams on Zen, her hands  slapping down our imaginary problems as we bounce on each other’s shoulders.

Usually a K.Flay record is production heavy in the footsteps of her hip-hop heroes. Live, she has nowhere to hide and her fuzzy, trash sound bursts forward at every turn. There’s so much grunge and rock hidden beneath the fuzzing trash of her samples as if she was the talented yet bratty adopted daughter of Kim Deal. The bass would make The Prodigy proud, and we relish the chance to jump and rave as she crunches on speaker stacks like a predatory spider. Irish Goodbye, her song about ‘that moment of clarity’ when you realise that you can ‘just fucking leave’ a relationship which isn’t right for you, is fizzing with raw, illicit energy from joy and regret. Punisher maximises her ethereal vocal which dodge between slices of guitar in a dark prayer for the bruised.

For a brief moment, she drops her stage persona. “I won’t take this for granted,” she shares honestly before dropping High Enough and transforming back into a strutting punk iconoclast, smashing her fists down as we summon the energy to match her. She’s decided not to do an encore, but that’s not surprising. Flay takes on the world on her own terms and projects a sense of herself as an individual at every turn, doing her own thing without compromise. In a world of identical female vocalists doing very similar things, K.Flay forges her own path and creates a show which is all her own.

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Review of K. Flay at Electric Brixton on 3rd October 2023 by Kate Allvey. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.

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