“We’re not in California anymore,” went rapper K.Flay’s opening hook Friday during her Austin City Limits Music Festival performance. The song’s about climate change.
Rocking white denim and backed by a two man-strong guitar-and-drum outfit, the artist born Kristine Meredith Flaherty channeled Anthony Kiedis and recalled a more interesting and dynamic G-Eazy in presence — towering in combat boots and with a brisk command of her microphone.
“I know it’s a little chilly, so thanks for hanging with us — stick together,” she told VRBO stage patrons.
Her work was a buffet built on her introspective, progressive writing and easy vocal charisma. It was the throughline to her puddle-jumping dabbling.
“This Baby Don’t Cry” featured a steady beat and post-Ting Tings pop vocals. The head-bang-ready “Black Wave” changed gears between a guitar rock-charging chorus and drum pad-tracked hip-hop verse. She could go full Nine Inch Nails with abrasive synths built to a crescendo, and then work in sweeping, festival-made bridges.
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“High Enough” was a showcase for her rap roots. (She started her career by producing snarky rap songs in college.) You’ve probably heard the love song “It’s Strange” on a Nissan ad.
“Ice Cream” was flippant and full of plopping bass lines like a great, bratty grunge single. “Bad Vibes” slapped like a Sleigh Bells song, full of staccato raps over feedback and uptempo rock drums.
“I get bad energy, sick pleasure from you,” she sang.
Fans blew bubbles and the sun shined more after that one.
K.Flay has had a career side-tracked by the limbo that can come with being signed to a major label and waiting around for your turn. She’s lost the rights to past music, some of it worked with the dude from Prodigy.
Now she’s on.
“I could use some good news to pull me through,” she sang on the dance-ready, pulsating, and Robyn-like “Good News.”
Her sardonic yet accessible tunes were captivating and wide-reaching — and just weird enough so that any patron within earshot seemed to raise an eyebrow.