Kimya Dawson is not having a good day but she’s putting such a brave face on things that we wouldn’t even know. At least initially. Yet she’ll leave the stage at the end of an intense set in tears, as the crowd sings out a positive message.
As one half of anti-folk trailblazers the Moldy Peaches, Kimya made her name singing childlike, frequently childish songs about being young. And it’s here that she starts her set, including an a cappella song that her six-year-old daughter wrote and a fart-heavy track from her kids’ LP. The first chink in her armour – if she even has any – is when she announces that this is her penultimate gig before she has a cyst removed from her vocal chords. She admits that this could change her voice forever, but doesn’t milk the sympathy, instead joking about which new voice she’d like.
Sat down on a low chair, only the tallest can see more than her shock of Sideshow Bob hair. But that doesn’t stop her connecting with the audience. As gentle as the breeze, she performs like there’s someone asleep in the corner she doesn’t want to wake. But the respectful Brighton crowd keep absolutely silent to pick up the words of her musical poems.
She’s so endearing, every time she stumbles, coughing, over the quick lyrics, the crowd just love her more. She asks for a little help on Juno-soundtracking ‘Tire Swing’ and when the crowd sing every word back at her she seems genuinely touched.
“Why is Brighton so cute?!” she exclaims. “You should know that about yourselves.”
But after a bad joke interlude, an acoustic rap song and a mock operatic number with dance moves (about eating farts) that her and her support act Pablo Das sing when they’re scared, things get serious.
Clearly feeling among friends, Kimya admits that just an hour ago she discovered that her friend Dennis Flemion of The Frogs had died. She also says how much she’s missing her daughter. Even at her best Kimya is so fragile that it seems like she’s already shattered and put herself together, frequently in the wrong order. But now we get her at her most vulnerable. The epic ‘Walk Like Thunder’ – about her friends dying – in the circumstances is heartbreaking, while even the comedic addiction song ‘The Beer’ is breathtaking in its brutal honesty.
After nearly an hour and a half she gets Pablo Das back on stage to play the last song, taking on the backing vocals. At first this seems like she’s shunning the glory but it soon looks like she doesn’t feel capable of giving an uplifting end to the gig. Her contribution drops off as she wipes away the tears behind her two-tone clown barnet, the crowd instead singing along.
Even before the last chord has rung out she’s diving from the stage, crying. But we’re cemented to the spot, giving loving applause for one of the most astoundingly raw performances Brighton has seen in a very long while.
The Haunt, Tuesday 10th July 2012
Words by James Kendall
Photos by Emma Jeffery