By the time Smoke Season finished their last song, anyone in attendance at The Echo’s second annual Play Like A Girl festival would have told you the evening was a success. 11 bands had come and gone, leaving a look of satisfaction on the LA crowd. Vagina-shaped balloons covered gray hair and bald spots, patrons sipped craft brew and shopped for vintage clothing sold in the smoking section. The raffle ticket booth, with all proceeds going to the Trans Alliance Ventura, was all but closed and the writing wall stuck way in the back corner of the venue was completely covered in funny and/or poignant graffiti.
It’s difficult to imagine anything could top off the fantastic evening for the female-first festival. Luckily, for those in attendance, imagining was not necessary. Reality slapped a smile on everyone’s face as KITTEN took the stage.
To a roar of applause, a notable feat considering only 30 or so crowded the stage at that point, the band entered. However, there was one crucial member of KITTEN missing. The band paid no mind, shredding on their respective instruments with enough force to make anyone chatting in the back take notice. But once lead vocalist Chloe Chaidez took the stage, it became impossible to look away.
Donned in a red unitard and David Byrne-style overcoat, the five-foot-nothing vocalist walked straight up to the mic and went right into “Fall on Me.” No introduction needed. How did the crowd respond, you say? With madness. Ms. Chaidez has an on-stage charisma that demands attention. Onlookers would have assumed her powerful voice caught the crowd’s weary eyes in a tractor beam, a la Star Wars. But Chaidez is far from a Death Star. Her vivacious personality and stellar moves make her a star to behold, and one brimming with life.
Song after song, Chaidez didn’t feel the need to introduce herself or the band. From “Chinatown” and “Cut It Out” to a couple of George Michael covers (“Father Figure” and “Never Dance Again”), the crowd was transfixed. Bodies grooved beneath the floor of The Echo’s weekly funk party, Funky Sole. Can you guess who had the better evening?
But make no mistake, it was not just the drumbeat, the lead guitarist obliterating his strings, or the disco balls shining above that caused such a frenzy. It was all that mixed in with Chaidez’s presence. Arms flailing back and forth, her petite frame twisting, jumping, running all over the stage, she was the embodiment of pure energy, a truly great performer.
As “Never Dance Again” drew to a close, the band members dispersed, save a lone synth player. The lighting switched from red to blue, and after a minute of percussion-less synth, Ms. Chaidez reemerged, now wearing a blue Nascar racing jacket — with a large Viagra logo plastered across the front — and a dark green unitard. Upon notice, the crowd rightfully went bonkers as the rest of the band joined back in for “Church.”
After the final hymn of the track, Chaidez addressed the crowd with a devilish grin, “The title of that song is ‘Church.’ It’s like we’re at Church right now, ladies church.” As KITTEN made their way through “Like a Stranger,” Chloe addressed the crowd yet again, promising she “never does this sort of thing” and then proceeded to ask if the group could make a giant dance circle. And, to no one’s surprise, the now fairly-packed crowd made a circle and began raucously dancing around their champion, who sang and danced in the middle.
As the evening drew to a close, and the crowd now spilled out past the sound booth and began edging towards the back bar, Chaidez announced they had but two more songs. “Kitten With A Whip” started, and the feeling was electric. The crowd was at its most engaged, with people of all ages jumping up and down, waving arms and clapping along with the rhythm. From teens with the “cool” parents to 30-somethings with earplugs to a few old folks supporting the cause, the whole place was getting down. Again, Chaidez addressed the crowd, slyly asking them all to “move to the left.” Without hesitation, the crowd acquiesced as she scaled a rafter and dove right into the willing arms of her audience who couldn’t be happier to catch her.
It was an incredible moment of connection and a perfect way to close the evening. But, there was still one more song. How does one follow up such a moment? With a Prince cover, of course. As a familiar guitar chord began to walk, and the lights suspiciously took on a purple hue, Chaidez went in on a rendition of “Purple Rain” that would make the Purple One proud. And to add support, an entire venue of Prince fans sang along. But just when the audience thought they couldn’t ask for a better moment, Chaidez asked them all to sit. As in on the floor? That sticky, beer soaked floor? Anything for you Chloe: sit they did. And, when she asked the crowd to close their eyes, you’re damn right they did. She cooed the final refrains and let her guitarist destroy a solo, the perfect ending to an incredible performance.
KITTEN rounded out a fantastic evening of music and support for a worthy cause, but without question stole the show. Chloe Chaidez is in her element on stage and being able to catch her in an intimate setting like the Echoplex is unreal. She turned casual attendees into die-hard fans, this journalist included. Not once throughout the set did she introduce herself or the name of the band. But after a performance like that, who needs an introduction anyway?
Fall on Me
Cut It Out
Father Figure (cover)
Never Dance Again (cover)
Like A Stranger
Kitten With A Whip
Purple Rain (cover)