K.Flay brought her band to Reno straight off of a performance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival. The Saint provided a small venue for the sold-out show, where you couldn’t be more than a few paces from the stage.
K.Flay – the performing name for Kristine Flaherty – took the stage backed by just a drummer and guitar player and proceeded to play for about an hour, her music taking a mix of elements from lo-fi pop, electronic fits to a static brand of hip-hop.
Live, K.Flay comes off as even more angst-plagued than on her recordings. An unamused gaze gives way to movement that appears more tortured and angry than fluid. Combined with her lyrics, a collection of narratives based on introspection and seemingly inspired far more by literary figures than by other pop artists, a serious tone permeated the performance. The few moments when she was unable to hide a smile across her face made the atmosphere almost cathartic and led to roars from the crowd, not unlike the moments when someone in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch breaks character and it only makes it more climactic for the audience as a result.
Possibly prone to overintellectualizing the events around her, K.Flay – who possesses degrees in psychology and sociology from Stanford – would catch herself overexplaining the meanings of her songs to the crowd, at one point cutting her story short and announcing, “Sometimes I need to stop talking.” At another moment, she paused amid thank yous to the crowd to tell someone holding his beer in the air, “Watch that you don’t spill your beer. But I like your energy, I like your spirit!”
It became clear that some of her fans have far more than a casual appreciation of her music. Members of the crowd packed at stage front would sing every word to every song, the hum of the collective vocals throughout the floor sometimes overtaking the mic’d output from the stage.
Following the show, K.Flay announced that had sold out of merchandise before the show, but would be at the back of the room and all who wanted to were welcome to take a picture and say hello. It may be hard to imagine a similar scene taking place following a set in Los Angeles, or any of her upcoming shows, as she joins Imagine Dragons on the fall arena tour. Such can be the charm of Reno. And from the looks of it, nearly everyone from that show lined up to take her up on her offer.
Openers Layne from Los Angeles played a quick set of about six songs. The four-piece could be described as playing pop music filtered through a hazy tone of smoggy California twilights and lurid parties. There is definitely a quality to their music that feels as if you’re witnessing a band in a small club that may soon find their way to much bigger things.