It’s pretty amazing to see such a tiny performer take the stage with such force and energy, and right in the middle of the week. If a Wednesday night show might be sticking point for general audiences, it must act as some sort of filter, keeping out the less serious and undermotivated of fans. I say this because nearly everyone was just as excited to see Kitten in Chicago as Kitten was to perform; people were screaming and jumping and crying tears of joy at this stunningly explosive and equally expressive group at their show last night at Beat Kitchen.
The four piece synthpop/punk group was formed in Los Angeles in 2009 as the result of collaborations between lead singer Chloe Chaidez and Chad Anderson, who now oversees and manages the group. After their initial EP release in 2010, they’ve had more than a few lineup changes that have included more than a dozen different musicians on drums, guitar, bass and synthesizer. I suppose the saying “you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince” applies here, because each of the current members is incredibly talented. While their latest album really highlights their silkier take on 80’s punk, complete with ample synth hits and echo chambered vocals, their live performance leans heavily on the live instruments. Wailing away passionately and almost effortlessly on guitar, Nick Perez filled the stage with colorful chords and riffs, along with exceptional solos, notably in Kitten’s cover of “Purple Rain.” Carlos Lopez’s groovy but metronome-like drumming was phenomenally additive to the performance, yet not overpowering, a difficult feat for any live performance, let alone one in this genre with such range; one of their numbers included several sulky somber 80’s ballads reminiscent of a time of hair metal and jazzercise. (Eyes closed, you can just picture the music video for these, slow panning close ups fading into the singer in the sunset.) But instead of coming off as cheesy, they were relatable and timelessly emotional.
Fast forward a few songs and the bassist’s chugging bassline and Carlos’s peppy uptempo beat had everyone swaying their hands in the air as they were lifted by Chloe’s remarkable vocals. Between her on-stage and vocal acrobatics, she left me in a rare daze that had me wondering “How did she do that?” The yogi singer was on level 10 from the beginning with frenetic and powerful dance moves and precise soulful vocals that kept us all engaged throughout the entire set. When she wasn’t singing or tribal dancing, she was doing backflips, handstands, jumping off the drum set or making us all scream a primal roar in unison just to relieve stress, like some form of punk rock group therapy – she commanded the crowd to do this while in the crowd on top of a fan’s shoulders (mine!) the bassist and Carlos both joined the crowd at their own times too, with Max inciting a mosh pit right in front. This highlights the fearlessness of the group, a cardinal trait led and demonstrated best by Chloe. Her engagement with the crowd and love for the performance itself regardless of audience size (the Wednesday night show only drew about half the venue’s capacity) or exhaustion is genuine and uncommon.
After the show, in front of a long line of adoring fans, she casually revealed to me she had been on an agonizing 6 hour bus ride from Columbus and had actually worked out two *separate* times before going on stage for the two hour concert. As I reflected on this seemingly-impossible feat, she gave nothing but big smiles and even bigger hugs for the remaining fans, though visibly winded. Her gratitude and humility was made even clearer when I went back to the merch area where I found her finishing up the last hug and album signing. I was unhappy with the picture I took with her and wanted to push my luck for a second take. She turned and started for the exit when I stopped her apologetically and regretfully asked her for another photo. Without hesitation (and now completely drained) she gave me a bear-tight embrace and posed cheerfully as we took one final photo. That moment summarized Kitten’s entire performance: true passion for the music with relentless love for the fans who support them.