Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock know how to throw a party. Equal parts one-off take-home stage decorations, interpretive cross-dressing dance performance, turntablism, animal costumes and just a dash of space exploration.
Let’s back up. I have to admit that I was drawn to the Aesop Rock/Kimya Dawson collaboration for the same reasons that had Ben scratching his head at the line up, initially. What would that collaboration sound like? It sounds a lot like Aes rapping over piano and guitar melody. It also sounds like Kimya lilting over Serato scratches. The earnestness with which each wordsmith took at a stab at each other’s respective genres was impressive.
Kimya started the night with a classic from her repertoire, “Loose Lips,” the title track from Alphabutt consisting of lyrics about silver pink ponies flying overhead. DJ Clydeoscope joined Kimya to play a track that ended in a “Space Oddity” riff, with Kimya in a plush space helmet miming space exploration and a quip about her, Clyde and everyone else in San Francisco blasting off in space. “I Like Giants” featured an interpretive dance number by Dave End of Underthrust. As her set continued, Kimya trotted out some material that immediately clarified the impetus of her work with Aes. Tracks like “The Beer” and “Year 10” begot an almost shockingly raw performance and belied a troubling history of alcohol abuse. To close Kimya’s portion of the evening, Aesop contributed vocals on “Walk Like Thunder,” a nine minute, meandering track that starts with a recollection of Kimya’s overdose and touched on love, loss and mortality.
Aesop Rock’s portion of the night started with some crowdpleasers. “Citronella” and “Coffee” off his most recent solo release, None Shall Pass, saw a multitude of fists in the air. Rob Sonic’s take on divorce elicited some giggles. Words cannot describe the swell of local pride inspired by hearing Aesop and Rob Sonic drop names like Grubstake and the Roxie. Rock and Rob capitalized the opportunity to debut some impressive material from their new project, Hail Mary Mallon. Nothing, though, rounds out a live performance like Kimya, Jeremy Fish and Alex Pardee on stage in animal costumes.
The final delight of the evening was Kimya, Aesop, Rob Sonic and Big Wiz on stage performing works from their as-yet-unnamed project. Kimya and Aesop’s shared ability to vacillate from winky irony to blunt anger in two sentences or less characterized much of their set, as did their tendency to smile while rapping about subjects that most would find soul-crushing. The pair invited all of their collaborators on stage to perform a track featuring the chorus “Tits up.” The corresponding dance move — as you might imagine — is two hands in the air making groping motions. In a splendid final flourish, the crew handed out the stage decorations — hand painted boxes by Alex Pardee and Jeremy Fish — to audience members.