My favorite thing about the world of “Alternative” music is its unending ability to live up to its definition. Each year, this segment of music has continued to diversify and expand; what used to be primarily described as “Alternative Rock” has expanded to include soul and brass of The Revivalists, piano-pop of Andrew McMahon, twenty one pilot’s reggae-tinged tunes, while still playing host to classics like Green Day – and that’s just the Top 40 this week. Tucked in at #4 amid this diverse roster sits “Blood in The Cut” by K.Flay. Self described in her Facebook bio, her “…indie hip hop / mixed with electronics / mixed with me head banging / but I’m still figuring it out,” seems to be something everyone is “figuring out,” as it’s been charting for 22 consecutive weeks.
This Tuesday, we caught Flay and some of her friends – new and old – dancing together at The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, CO. Since my first encounter with her one early morning on Warped Tour 2014, what immediately stood out was her lyrics: brutally honest, uniquely witty, and above all else, so personal and introspective it’s as if she’s speaking to your own life experiences. Songs like “So Fast, So Maybe” from her self-titled EP perfectly marry disdain for pop culture with the fear that comes from recognizing the reality of time. Pair this with the all-too-real love portrayed in “Wishing It Was You”, heartbreaking ballad “The Cops”, and 2016’s single “F.M.L.” and you see a complete image of anyone on the brink of adulthood, grappling with personal insecurities, unrequited love, the effects of their past, and more than anything, the effort to make sense of their current path and what the future may have in store. Tuesday’s show was well sold out, but not filled with strictly college kids and 20/30-somethings I’d imagined, rather, there was a solid chunk of teenagers injected into the crowd. While some might see K.Flay’s unrelentingly catchy music as her top selling point, I stand resolute in my belief that her lyrics are it, and see Tuesday’s diverse crowd as proof there is no wrong age to feel angst, no unacceptable time to feel heartbreak. There’s no denying how impressive it is to see one artist blur so many lines between rapping and vocalizing, electronic and rock, indie and hip hop – doing so not only with skill, but with underlying pop sensibilities that add an entirely new level of catchiness. Still, I feel more attracted to Flay’s music because of her ability to speak: laying the right words delicately above hefty base drops and melody lines.
This skill was showcased in full at The Black Sheep while fans danced along to the catchy beats of “Everyone I Know” and newly released “Black Wave,” screaming every word back at her as she bobbed from one side of the stage to the next. Accompanied by a drummer and a guitarist, the performance’s sound felt full, but not overpowering, allowing the audience’s focus to stay with the front woman. The crowd stayed focused all night, sticking with her even though slower songs like “The Cops” and “You Felt” right, and giving monstrous applause as she ended the set with “Blood In The Cut.” It’s fun to see K.Flay’s audience continue to grow and diversify, becoming as alternative as the music she creates. If anything, it proves that we are all human, not alone in our feelings, rather, united by our experiences and the music that portrays them.
– words and photographs by Maddie Casey
– Working with bands of all shapes, sizes and sounds since 2008, you can find Maddie in the crowd (or behind the merch booth…or in the photo pit) at countless shows year round. After spending six years as the Music Editor of Ultra5280, she is currently freelancing as a writer and photographer while not touring, working festivals, or obsessing over Red Pandas. More of her work can be found on her website, www.hellomaddiecasey.com/