Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville Show Mod Club, Toronto ON, April 27
Published Apr 28, 2018Inimitably enterprising and artistically restless, Kid Koala has built an enviable reputation for his brand of melodic turntablism, collaborating with everyone from Amon Tobin, Gorillaz, and Deltron 3030 to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, even writing comics and conducting turntable orchestras along the way.
For his latest venture, he's teamed up with a crew of videogame makers to score a breakdance battle game called Floor Kids, and he's hit the road to mark the occasion with a remounting of his Vinyl Vaudeville Show. Playfully hawked as "the silliest party in the history of silly parties," it's a zany revue packed with giant puppets, dancers, and stage gags, known to win over a festival audience or two.
Freshly retooled for the club with music spanning Kid Koala's career, as well as tracks crafted specifically for the tour, this release day stop at the Mod Club offered a more expanded take on the show's zany exhibition vision, complete with a bank of Floor Kids arcade cabinets lining the venue's raised second level, and a pair of special guest performances Kid Koala curated specifically to help him take everyone to silly town, and he was on hand to provide all the necessary introductions.
First there was DJ Jester the Filipino Fist, warming up the room by crate-digging and mashing up wedding-adjacent '80s pop, sad country songs and classic pedestrian hip-hop, all while tossing out branded whoopee cushions (also available at the show's carnival-style "Merch Ville," alongside fidget spinners), and then it was time for Adria Amram and the Experience to take over.
At first emerging alone onstage at the helm of a corny batch of samples, she was soon joined by a pair of visor-wearing backup dancers, and as a DJ cued up the backing track, they dove into a short set full of schlocky electro pop songs about instantly relatable subjects like pizza parties and sex-positive romps, all accentuated with exaggerated dance bits, hot pink spandex and plenty of glitter.
They capped it off crowd surfing to Merch Ville, where an unassuming Kid Koala stood amongst the masses, and the show transitioned seamlessly into his own set. Producing a wireless sampler, he pulled up a beat and proceeded to dance and mix his way up to the stage, establishing from the get-go that the spotlit pulpit was just a formality.
For all the uninitiated, when he reached his decks, he declared, "We're gonna start quirky and weird and then just get wilder and wilder," and proceeded to do just that. In a bit of inspired black-light theatre, set opener "Halo" turned a pair of LED ropes into a waveform illustration that a pink monkey-like figure treated like a jungle gym, and then it was time to march out his life-sized Brass Playing Ants for some low impact dub. It didn't take long for the action to invade the floor again, and soon Kid Koala had everyone clearing room for a cipher circle, b-boys and b-girls trading flows as he juggled up a medley of his Floor Kids material.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome's "Drunk Trumpet" got a hilariously literal treatment with a giant trumpet puppet that slinked around the stage playing itself with its lanky limbs, and Adria Amram and the Experience reemerged as burlesque dancers for "4-Bit Blues," while their able instructional assistance got a packed club of grown-ass adults dancing along to Koala's remix of the Yo Gabba Gabba theme song, reaching down to touch their toes, uncurling like a beanstalk, and reaching up, reaching high. A scratch-blasted Slayer/jungle mashup enlisted the help of some metal-head muppets and a giant aquamarine daddy longlegs that prowled amongst the audience like some War of the Worlds Martian, while a pair of ostriches bobbed and traded footwork to Koala's Baby Driver contribution.
It was all in good spirit, then, when Koala paused the action to transition into the next set piece and a heckler jokingly shouted "do something fun!"
Koala told the heckler to come onstage while he summoned up the sample pack for "7-Bit Blues" on his wireless piece, and after they emerged, he had him take a stab at the beat. "He's marching to his own beat," Koala said. "I like that."
From there, Koala and his crew led the audience through one of his infamous snail congas, starting from the club's perimeter and spiraling inward to the centre of the floor. Coiling tighter and tighter, when the line reached its terminal centre, Amram declared the room had made a human turntable, and everyone erupted into a thriving mass.
The backend of the show got sillier and sillier as Koala unpacked more hijinks, including a song called "Laptop" ("the stupidest song I could have ever written in a studio," Koala captioned) created in reaction to criticism levelled at him from his five-year-old daughter ("Dad, you better start having some laptops onstage or you're gonna be out of fashion soon"), as well as some filming for a mockumentary about a pair of conjoined octopus trance DJs.
"Moon River" brought out a pair of severe-looking dancing penguins, spinning and bobbing to Koala's atmospheric washes; "8 Bit Blues" had Amram and the Experience firing t-shirts into the audience with a giant slingshot, followed by a hail of so many paper planes, and when the encore came around, "2 Bit Blues" pulled audience members onstage for an epic kazoo showdown.
Despite the downcast hellscape all our news feeds bring, this spoke to a greater human capacity for joy and collective embrace. For Kid Koala, all the club's a stage, and he honours it with untethered positivity.