My wife once asked me, “Why the fascination with Kinski?”
“Imagine,” I asked her, “you really like, say U2. Except you get to see them at a bar from ten feet away.”
My interest in Kinski began a few years back, when I was finishing up my book. I had been attempting to get an interview with Sub Pop’s Jon Poneman, but he ignored my repeated emails and calls. So, during a Seattle trip, I ventured to the company headquarters in hopes I might get to talk to him in-person. Unfortunately, the building was locked, so I waited for someone to enter and I snuck in behind her. I headed up to the Sub Pop office and told the receptionist who I am and that I was hoping I could chat with Jon. She said the standard, “He’s in a meeting with Dwight and Andy and is not available.” Then she gave me a CD and ushered me off in a “kid, here’s a CD, now leave me alone” way.
I opened up the CD and noticed it was a recording of the 2008 Sub Pop 20 Festival. I had been to the second day of that festival for the Green River reunion, but had no idea about the overall quality and variety of the bands over that weekend. I listened to the entire CD when I got home…and one track that stood out was “The Wives of Artie Shaw” by Kinski. First, the title was great. Second, it was an instrumental. Third, it was an instrumental that flat out rocked in a “we’ll hammer you over the head kind of way.” Fourth, well, they were just so incredibly tight.
I didn’t get to see Kinski live until April of 2015, during a fun-filled long weekend in Seattle. Then I found out they were coming to my hometown of Philly in October. Unfortunately, while I can always find people to see shows in Seattle, and usually know the people performing, I have trouble getting a crowd together at home. I feared I might have to go alone, when my wife suggested asking the husband of one of her friends. I thought, ‘Hmmm, Steve might want to go. He does like Soundgarden. He had mentioned seeing them on their 1994 Superunknown tour.’ So I asked him and he said yes. Turned out to be a good choice.
We listened to a Kinski mix I put together on the way down…he had never heard them before…and he liked them instantly. We headed over to a bar in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood called Johnny Brenda’s. (It’s just so cool when I get to see a favorite Seattle band play Philly.) Kinski would take the stage at 10, as the middle act…sandwiched between openers Kohoutek and headliners Bardo Pond. The latter band had led Philadelphia’s psych/noise movement in the late ’90s and it turns out Steve had heard of them and had friends at Brenda’s who were fans.
(Kinski. From left, Chris Martin, guitar; Barrett Wilke, drums; Lucy Atkinson, bass; Matthew Reid-Schwartz, guitar.)
I chatted for a few minutes pre-Kinski with Steve and his friends. Steve had told them I was a Kinski fan and had seen them in Seattle. Not being familiar, they asked me about them. “They’re sick good,” I said, and proceeded to give them my backstory about how I became a fan. Daniel, one of Steve’s friends, said, “I love discovering bands late, like after they’ve put out six albums. Then you can go back and have something to listen to for weeks before you get tired of them.”
10 pm arrived and Kinski stormed the stage, opening with “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo,” (how can you not love a band that has songs titles like that?) a track from a split EP they did with fellow Seattle band Sandrider. “Narcotic” starts off with this sort of major key guitar drone, accompanied by a warm bass line (Lucy plays this piece with a bow) and Matthew on flute. Then, “Bam!” Kinski lurches into a killer riff…or several killer riffs. (Did I mention this band is loud? I told Steve to bring earplugs. Fortunately, he did…and he thanked me for it…he had told me how he suffered partial hearing loss at recent AC/DC and Neil Young shows. Earplugs are a good thing…bring them and don’t lose your hearing.)
(No, this isn’t Jethro Tull.)
Following that, Kinski focused on material from their current record, 7 (or 8) (an album so titled because the band can’t decide whether it is in fact their seventh or eighth record), but they did delve into some older material, most notably the extended piece “The Party Which You Know Will Be Heavy,” and the killer Groundhogs-ish riff based, “Crybaby Blowout” (I have to give myself props here, as I told Steve they would probably play that one…he recognized it from the sampler we heard on the trip down.) “Crybaby’s” riff…, I think that could go on for 20 minutes. Take a gander yourself.
Focusing heavily on the new record, which alternates between killer riffs and extended pieces, the band treated us to “Powder,” “Drink Up and Be Somebody,” and my favorite song title off this album, “I Fell Like a Fucking Flower,” so named after Lucy destroyed Chris’ girlfriend in an arm wrestling match…prompting Chris’ girlfriend to utter that phrase. Kinski finished with “Detroit Trickle Down,” the opening track from 7 (or 8), which absolutely killed the audience. They played for an hour, which is perfect for an old man like me. Of course, I still wanted more.