While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.
The dichotomy of weird and normal has fascinated me for years. The implication that there is a "normal" out of seven billion is absurd. We may share certain stories but likely manifest them in different ways. This was self evident to me when it pertained to people but I didn't realize I was guilty of applying it to concerts until my conversation with Diane regarding PWRBTM.
I had remarked that I found the glitter/makeup of the duo over the top. Diane retorted compassionately that it was a show, suggesting something greater like theatre. She later expressed gratitude for friends who taught her to heal in unconventional ways. In hindsight, those were very profound thoughts.
This is about k pasa USA, though. Their set started out fairly standard. Vocalist and DJ dancing around. When Melina asked the audience for a men's shirt, it fell within the confines of my expectations of a concert. She proceeded to put on a fake mustache, the generously donated flannel button-down shirt and other pieces I can't recall. Deconstructing gender. Cool.
For the next song, she started to strip, naked except for her bottoms. I have seen Gash before so while that really made my jaw drop given its unexpected nature, it still fell within my preset notion. Besides, giving the finger to the shaming of a woman's body should always be encouraged and celebrated.
Black electrical tape followed. She started to wrap it around her head. She worked really fast, conveying a sense of impatience more than urgency and moreover, she did so with the vigor of one unleashing anger. The energy on display alone made it mesmerizing but grew exponentially as she wound the tape over her mouth multiple times, sealing it shut before continuing to her nose where she repeated the loops, effectively cutting off all her avenues for air.
If I had caught on fire at that moment, I might not have noticed. Melina started convulsing, her arms waving agitatedly in the air and her head rocking in all directions. I vaguely remember my mouth going dry and a million thoughts racing through my head yet I was fixated by the scene transpiring two footsteps away from me. I guess everyone was in the same state because no one stepped in.
It probably lasted half a minute before her hands started to claw at the tape. Then the surprise struck like lightning. Watching her intake of breath did not bring relief at first as one might expect. Instead, it brought a sense of wonder, an admiration at having witnessed the courage it sometimes takes to give birth to art. K pasa USA was not done.
For their last song, the band asked the audience to sit on the floor and turned all the lights off. We waited in the dark for several minutes, wondering and preparing for the next surprise. There was no preparing for what happened next. Barefoot and silent, Melina, clad in a black maxi dress, entered the room from the back, deliberately trampling over those in her way as she drunkenly moved towards the microphone up front. Still eerily silent, I could barely breathe as she picked it up.
Then she starts to belt out Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
Void of the electro pop nature of k pasa USA's sound, I instantly noticed that she has an amazing voice. Obviously no Whitney but very respectable. All of a sudden, Thompson interrupted the lovely singing with the synthesizer blasting noise. Literally noise. He stopped just as suddenly and we were returned to serenity. A few lines later, he interrupted again with noise. However, everyone's attention was on Melina.
She had stopped singing and was instead spasming. She proceeded to stumble forwards into the front row with those seated there helping to steady her. They stopped when blood* erupted from Melina's chest. She continued to stumble further into the audience, her arms waving wildly as more blood splashed around while a recorded Whitney lovingly coos in the background.
The iconic voice of Whitney appeared enough to bring Melina back to her senses and she joined the recording in loudly singing the chorus. At the end of "yoooou" she lost control again and started spilling more blood. The cycle repeated one or two more times. Finally the song came to an end and we found Melina on the floor drenched in blood as if dead. Needless to say, I had and still have no words.
Even as I write this, I still have no idea what it means and I doubt I ever will. I do know however that my narrow expectations for a concert are problematic. I want to thank Diane for bringing it to my attention. K pasa USA wonderfully demonstrated that one does not have to subscribe to any narrative, be it gender, sexuality, concerts, or anything else. If any reader knows of other bands who challenges the concept of normal, please let me know!
*It was chocolate syrup which apparently passes exceedingly well for blood in the dark. Also, no pictures of the awesomeness because too busy holding jaw duh.
This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.
[words and photo of k pasa USA by The Paper]