Twenty-year-old Mikaela Strauss, who goes by the stage name King Princess, proved herself a born performer and perhaps the world’s most extroverted extrovert during her revelatory 4 p.m. performance at ACL Fest’s Honda Stage.
She and her band wore matching white jumpsuits with bejeweled accents (the band had red hearts; Strauss’s back pockets sported a cheeky sparkling “6” and “9.”) The young performer kicked off her set with a gentle pop piano ballad, but even on the piano bench she utterly commanded the audience with every glance and movement. This was just a prelude to a magnificent one-hour set that saw her collapsing and careening in slow motion across the stage as she delivered fresh, passionate pop gems soaked through with youthful queer energy.
The genderqueer Strauss is anything but shy, oozing with cocksure swagger as she reveled in the myriad possibilities of gender expression. During the fiery, irresistible disco-tinged “Cheap Queen” and the unabashedly sexy “Pussy is God,” she strutted and stutter-skipped and perfected a mesmerizing sort of soft-butch preening. She playfully utilized the pelvis-hand trope of so many rock frontmen to magnificent, rebelliously seductive effect.
At all times, Strauss exuded a playful, campy melodrama, especially during some of her uptempo disco-tinged love and lust songs (Grease-style finger gun dancing!). But her smoky voice also lent her more heartbreak-heavy lyrics the gravity and passion they deserved. Her bold persona still managed to reveal vulnerability, especially during some as-yet-unreleased breakup songs and her tender, subversive radio hit “1950,” which explores a desire to play a more “traditional” spouse role in a queer relationship.
The bright, brash and remarkable King Princess hasn’t even released her first full-length album yet, but she and her band had no problem filling their hour slot and proving they’ve got the personality and the chops (her band rocks *hard*) to dominate the pop world.