The King Khan & BBQ Show | 12.01 | WI

Words by: Cal Roach

The King Khan & BBQ Show :: 12.01.09 :: Mad Planet :: Milwaukee, WI

The King Khan & BBQ Show
You may have heard the show-biz cliché that "even bad publicity is good publicity." The exception to this rule is when an act cultivates a reputation that it can't always live up to. The hype surrounding The King Khan & BBQ Show centers more on the notorious spectacle than the music, and on this cold Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the two weirdos at the helm just didn't seem up for putting on a circus.

Yes, there was the shimmery, lavender backdrop, Khan's immaculate blond wig and gold dress, BBQ's pink towel headdress and purple robe, and plenty of scatological shrieking. Visually, they were a virtual parody of Cheech and Chong's Alice Bowie from Up In Smoke, itself (obviously) a parody. The line between irony and ingenuity has been blurred beyond all definition for these guys, yet their reputation for outlandish performance makes it tough to judge them purely on musical merit.

With relatively little shock value, what the band delivered was pretty much just a good old fashioned rock show, grunge-meets-the-Trashmen. BBQ's obtrusive screaming comes close to mocking a death metal growl, but then he's also got the pipes to belt out some melodious soul, almost Mike Patton caliber at times. "Too Much In Love" featured some great call-and-response action; Khan can be a powerhouse on vocals as well. "Tastebuds," from the just-released Invisible Girl (In The Red) album, shook the room with laughter and bitchin' rock action; gross but somehow gratifying. Still, it served to highlight the duo's status as a hard-edged Flight Of The Conchords. The goofiness makes it hard to take them seriously, and I doubt that they care.

The King Khan & BBQ Show from
Khan's snaky, tremolo fuzz guitar sound is a refreshing way to wring some novelty out of the over saturated garage idiom, but it becomes a bit monotonous when he uses the same effect for nearly every song. He's got a distinctive sound, but there have to be some more crazy ideas rolling around in that head. He radiated a slightly deranged charisma that I'm guessing is infectious on a good night, but it all just felt a bit forced this time.

The show was solid fun, but I just didn't feel the abundance of manic energy I was expecting. Some bizarre heckling and stage crashing ought to have been perfect fodder for Khan's wit, but he seemed bemused by the proceedings, even a little cranky. The crowd was largely intoxicated and rowdy, which the band has surely come to expect by now, but the entities just weren't connecting on this night.

Khan also suffered just a bit due to the ferocious energy of the two opening acts. Milwaukee's Drugs Dragons just put a smile on my face for proving that there are still kids out there playing real, Ramones worshipping punk rock with Bruce Loose style vocals. They had occasional psychedelic flourishes, but mostly it's just Boris The Sprinkler on codeine. And Those Darlins (out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee) lashed out with enough obnoxious girl grit to make the Go-Go's run for cover. Hired drummer Sheriff Lin only seemed to know the beat from "Walk Like An Egyptian," which made the songs sort of run together after a while, but the three frontwomen packed a wallop, both vocally and in sheer attitude, that got the crowd stoked and probably a little turned on. Capped by a raucous cover of "Shakin' All Over," the Darlins' set left the crowd wanting just a little more than Khan and BBQ were able to put out, but there's still no way anybody had a bad time at this show.

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