CMW 2014: The King Khan and BBQ Show @ The Garrison

Over the past nine years in Toronto I've watched the natural progression of bands going from playing as "up and comers" at small venues to hitting the big leagues and headlining festivals. Starting out as openers at the Boat to playing two-night sold out shows at Massey Hall. Of course there is always the chance of the opposite happening, too. Groups with huge buzz faltering and falling from grace, lucky to catch a spot at the Central – hype is a harsh mistress, indeed.

Then there are the musicians who keep right along. Throughout profile-increases and status-rising, when they play Toronto, they keep on playing smallish venues. Maybe (probably) I am naive but I love those shows and those bands the most because it feels like they're really there for the fans. King Khan is one of those musicians.

The first time I saw King Khan was when he debuted with his band the Shrines at the Comfort Zone during NXNE in 2006. It was one of those shows that leaves you dazed and dizzy and elated and drenched with sweat and wondering who the fuck is that topless, garage-grunge-punk neo-James Brown god with the ten piece German orchestra and wild pompom-shaking go-go dancer hype girl?

Turns out he grew up in Montreal, that he's Blacksnake of the late nineties garage-punk band Spaceshits, that he once gave safe haven to the Black Lips following that time when Cole Alexander flashed his junk onstage which led to the birth of the King Khan-Black Lips super-group the Almighty Defenders. And once he put his butt in Lindsay Lohan's face. He's kind of a big deal.

Since seeing him at the Comfort Zone eight (!!) years ago, I've seen him at least another half-dozen times and always at The Horseshoe or Lee's – dirty, iconic venues that are perfect for his near Bacchic-level antics. Last Thursday, during CMW, he played The Garrison with his buddy and former Spaceshits band-mate, BBQ. And it was great. Really great.

I'd caught the King Khan and BBQ Show a few years ago (again, during NXNE and at Lee's) and been totally underwhelmed by the addition of BBQ. The magic of King Khan and the Shrines was missing, the frenetic madness was nowhere to be found and whatever charisma King Khan brought to the stage was severely dampened by BBQ's earnest low-energy (and ill-fitted turban). But that was three years ago and, after the super-fun show I saw Thursday, what I can concede was an off-night.

The music was raucous and on point, with BBQ doing the heavy instrumental lifting (he "smash[es] snare, bass drum and tambourine with his bare feet, molesting his guitar and singing like a possessed angel"), keeping shit tight and smooth and seamless while King Khan worked his usual sorcery.

I sincerely regret all the King Khan and BBQ Shows I've skipped over the years – that's on me. Definitely have learned my lesson.


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Alex Snider sells books and writes and gets into low-stakes hijinks in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter where she'll be super active for a week then be quiet for months – she's a social media cicada.


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