Kid Congo Powers greeted his audience for the night with an impromptu and orgasmic mic check dialling in his vocal reverb with some enthusiastic, “Oh yeahs!” Instantly slapping a cheeky grin onto everyones face within earshot. Born Brian Tristan, Kid Congo started his legendary music career by starting The Gun Club with Jeffrey Lee Pierce, later receiving his nickname from Lux during his stint playing in The Cramps, and playing with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds before starting his personal project, Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds.
The band’s newest album, La Araña Es La Vida, feels like the culmination of all his past experience which he credits to, “Just having a true voice and also creating music that borrows from the past but isn’t nostalgic,” during our chat on the roof of the Rickshaw Theatre before the show. “It’s modern music [that] also keeps the spirit of old music. It sounds easy enough, but it’s actually a very difficult and very precarious sort of line to balance [on].”
Dressed in full suits except for the drummer who wore a simple button up, the band instantly set the tone for the show with a high energy performance of “Nine Mile Blubber Pile” and “Coyote Conundrum.” The latter of which blatantly stating in the lyrics, “We want to have a good time and we want it to be real.” The crowd gratuitously obliged by erupting into an all out dance party spurred on by Tristan’s hypnotic guitar riffs and animated stage presence.
Other highlights from the performance included the cover and dedication to Jeffrey’s memory of The Gun Club’s “She’s Like Heroine To Me,” “Magic Machine,” and “Ricky Ticky Tocky,” which inspired someone from the crowd to yell out, “We love you Kid!”
With Tristan feeling so at home on stage, it’s hard to imagine that he learned everything he knows now, from playing the guitar to songwriting, solely “on the job” as he put it. “I went from nothing to being in The Gun Club, and The Cramps, and with Nick Cave [& The Bad Seeds],” he explained, “So for me, I’m very respectful of that work.”
When asked if he ever regretted not learning how to play guitar in a traditional manner he said, “I went through a period, let’s call it a mid life crisis, where I thought I really regretted never learning [guitar] traditionally and [how] I felt limited, but I kind of got over that.” He went on to explain, “A friend sat me down, actually Lydia Lunch, she sat me down and said, ‘You know, you just have to know your place within your culture.’ She [told me that] I know where I am, I know who the people who listen to me are, and that’s enough. [That] everything can spring out of that. So [then] I thought okay, I’m the untraditional minimalist guitar kind of player and [that] being a creator of music is just enough.”
Tristan’s muse for the record La Araña Es La Vida, which translates to “the spider is the life,” is the spider goddess of Teoticuhan in Mexico who sprouts hallucinogenic morning glorys and protects the underworld. Which relates directly to his own need to protect the music and culture he has worked to cultivate over the past thirty odd years of his career. “I want to keep underground music vital and I want it to be protected,” He says.
When asked if he would ever want to take that protection further, to possibly start a new label or something along those lines, he quickly responded, “You know, I think I’m starting to think about it. I mean, I like mentoring younger bands and supporting people. I think maybe I could just lecture or I could teach, you know, teach unconventional guitar playing and song writing. People teach that all the time.”
Check out the rest of the images from the stellar performance below.
Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds performed at the Rickshaw Theatre on May 7.