Kid Koala at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 28 2012
– review and photos by Robyn Hanson
Whatís weird about this Kid Koala show is that I did not anticipate a¬†night of gut-busting laughter.
I was expecting an¬†introspective evening listening to poignant compositions via headphones – a logical assumption considering his latest album,¬†Space Cadet, is a¬†minimalist, almost Erik Satie-like accompaniment to his heartbreaking graphic novel about a space cadet and her guardian robot.
Only a handful of¬†cities have bared witness to this unique set, and I was one of¬†the lucky ones to have experienced it on the last of three consecutively sold-out Performance Works Theatre shows as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
The show began before we even entered the theatre.¬†Space Cadet artwork (scratchboard sketches and sculptures), space-inspired imagery and retro equipment like a Rolandís Space Echo and an analog sampler (which loops a speaker’s voice onto a special gold record) populated the foyer.
Once inside, we were invited to listen to the music¬†through headphones (as opposed to amps). Rather than stand, we were asked¬†to get comfy amongst the pillows set up as a¬†semi-circle on the floor in front of the stage. There,¬†Ninja Tunes’ finest – Kid Koala, aka Eric¬†San, plus fellow musicians Vid and Matt – performed behind turntables, keys, mixing modules, and three¬†large projection screens.
The show didnít even strictly stick to songs off Space¬†Cadet. Instead, the set showcased Kid Koalaís dynamic range of genres and¬†musical projects, from a freestyle turntable solo of “Moon River” paired¬†with the crooning of a jazz chanteuse to some seriously freaky dub.
And then, when you least expected it – classical piano.¬†Sitting down at the stageís Steinway, San began to play. ďSome people¬†try to summon Oscar PetersonÖ I try to summon [Muppet] Rowlf.Ē
It was these moments of perfectly timed humour, spliced with¬†his musical genius, that ensured the show never suffered a dull moment. From a¬†koala suit-clad San leading the audience in a Yo-Gabba Gabba dance,¬†to the ďprofessionalĒ thumb wrestling ring (complete with a slo-mo video¬†recap with full commentary) to the eight Lord of the¬†Rings Pez dispensers he gave away as participation prizes¬†(people had to play a five-tone tube during the entirety of a song), Kid Koala proved himself to be a consummate entertainer.
A big thanks to the TD International Vancouver Jazz Festival for¬†making this happen, and for treating us to one of the¬†highlights of the this yearís jazz fest.