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Kid Koala’s Space Cadet Headphone Experience in Toronto
Kid Koala’s Space Cadet Headphone Experience
Kid Koala: Friendly DJ or the friendliest DJ? The urbane turntablist (born Eric San) welcomed an all-ages audience to the beatific cathedral at 918 Bathurst, promising a one-of-a-kind musical experience and even some cookies. Spawned from the graphic novel and accompanying score that he released last year, the live ‘Space Cadet’ show offered San a chance to connect with his fans in close quarters. After browsing the small gallery of related artwork and enjoying the afformentioned baked wares, the crowd was ushered into the auditorium and handed pairs of wireless headphones through which the audio would be fed. Infltable tubes and mats were set up in rows on the floor, inviting all to kick back for a unique performance.
With a rare and exciting opportunity at hand, there were some disappointing aspects that unfortunately popped up early. San’s set was advertised to begin at “9:30 sharp” but, with the addition of an unannounced and unimpressive warm-up act, that claim was off by a full hour. Certainly delays are to be expected in the music realm, but the specified start time demanding promptness from the fans was not adhered to by their host. The letdowns continued when it became apparent that San planned to talk at least as much as he actually played songs. A slide show and explanation of ‘Space Cadet’ artwork followed opener ‘Skanky Panky’, as a sort of show-and-tell-meets-stand-up-comedy-act got underway.
Criticisms aside, San’s affable demeanor made everyone in the room immediately comfortable. Moments of levity abounded, his irrepressible giggle as commonplace as his mastery of the decks. ‘Space Cadet Theme’ and ‘Remembrance’ were both piano-driven, the latter featuring a dreamy progression that was looped with scratching overtop. ‘Connectivity’ required an audience participant to man a music box, which was pre-loaded with its eerie theme. Throughout the night, the most impressive aspect of the show may have been the effort that was evidently put into it. Artist and venue alike were dedicated to sharing a special event.
Billed as “fun for the whole family”, the show became instantly kid-friendly with the appearance of ‘Reach Up, Reach High’. The track, originally produced for and performed on Yo Gabba Gabba, saw San don a koala suit and lead his charges in a Simon Says-like routine. The handful of actual children in attendance happily joined the young-at-heart in this calisthenic respite before the chill-out vibe prevailed. San’s warped take on ‘Moon River’ was fantastic, its pitch-shifting needle drops and murky modulation conveying the feeling of a distant sci-fi radio broadcast. ‘Speed of Light’ followed with ominous electric piano that San quickly undercut by pointing out his wife’s observation that the track sounds like a Lexus commercial. His vocoder-effected ad copy adlibs garnered the biggest laughs of the evening.
Kid Koala succeeded immensely in embracing a semblance of community, even if his set could use some streamlining. The trifecta of on-stage video screens, typically exhibiting the DJ’s hands at work, begged to be used more effectively in matching the ‘Space Cadet’ imagery with the music. The method of performance was ideal but San failed to deliver on the fully immersive potential of the concept, leaving the chance to get lost in a personal headphone-world untapped. All that said, there are a scant few musicians out there who could remain as likeable while coming up short.
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