REVIEW: K.Flay preaches self-acceptance at ‘beautiful’ Oakland homecoming gig

Kristine Flaherty, K.Flay

K.Flay performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sept. 7 2019. Photos: Chloe Catajan

OAKLAND — K.Flay, made her triumphant Bay Area return Saturday night at the Fox Theater in her biggest headlining stage production to date in the first week of her Solutions Tour.

The artist, who’s name is Kristine Flaherty, mentioned early on in the set that the show was not only extremely special for her, with many friends and family in attendance, but also for her two Bay Area bandmates. K.Flay is touring in support of her latest album, Solutions, a personal album about family and self-acceptance.

Kristine Flaherty, K.Flay

K.Flay performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sept. 7 2019.

She kicked things off with “Not In California,” s song that served as a lyrical guidepost for the rest of the album. The stage production consisted of a hill built from LED cubes creating the feel of an 8-bit video game come to life, with the white paneling illuminated by neon lights and projection screens. K.Flay said early on that the theme of the night was putting aside the ills of the world, both internal and external, and focusing on having fun.

Over the course of 90 minutes, she performed the entirety of the new record. The early portion of the set was about shaking off bad vibes, with high-energy, danceable jams that had the tightly packed floor moving from the first notes. K.Flay swung her arms, stomped her feet, and let the music’s beat-driven rhythms take her around the stage. Jumping from platform to platform, she burned through “This Baby Don’t Cry,” “Bad Vibes” and the spacey hard rock thrills of “Black Waves.” The latter song had an electro-pop and rock mentality.

K.Flay turned up the mid-tempo flow for “Giver” and “Make Me Fade” before turning back up for the upbeat and hopeful “Good News.” While Flaherty has tended to move away from her hip-hop roots in her more recent recording, that swagger still informs her high-energy performance. She brought out her light-speed rhymes a handful of times during the show, including on “Champagne.” 

She mentioned that she’s been making a concerted effort of self-acceptance before launching into the relatable empowerment jam “I Like Myself (Most of the Time).” All of the band members then came to the front of the stage for an acoustic performance of “Nervous,” an introspective ballad, as well as “Can’t Sleep.”

One of the surprises came with K.Flay covering Liz Phair’s “Fuck & Run” on stage by herself while playing an electric guitar.

She explained the song is important to her for multiple reasons. She’d first heard the song while living near the Rockridge BART station, while tutoring high school students and preparing them to take the SAT. More recently, it was at a Liz Phair concert that she met her girlfriend, musician Miya Folick.

The acoustic portion of the set provided a natural segue to the home stretch of her main set, which included “DNA,” a song about coming terms with the role her late biological father played in her life, as well as “Only the Dark,” about the positive place she sees for her friends and loved ones in the afterlife when they pass.

K.Flay brought back the hip- hop flow for “So Fast, So Maybe” before closing out her main set with “High Enough.”She returned for a raucous encore including the bouncy “Sister” and the lo-fi hard rock of “Blood In the Cut.” The show came to a close with the singer instructing the crowd to get down to the ground before leaping into the air into a sea of confetti covered concertgoers.

Your Smith

Your Smith performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sept. 7 2019.

Pop singer-songwriter Your Smith opened the show. Minnesota artist Caroline Smith’s performance was fun and varied. She walked onto the stage by herself, with a processor keyboard that she controlled at times. Sometimes a DJ, an MC, a dancer and a guitarist, Your Smith found new and changing ways to engage with the audience for 30 minutes.

Playing songs like “Bad Habit” and “Wild Wild Woman,” Your Smith cooly and confidently commanded the stage. She was in constant motion, shimmying and dancing her way through her set. When she strapped on a guitar, Smith surprised by breaking out an unexpectedly lyrical and soulful guitar solo.

She concluded her set by looping her own vocal to create a complex multipart vocal harmony of her own voice as she played, as well as even mixing in a Wilson Phillips cover along the way.

Houses, Dexter Tortoriello

Houses perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sept. 7 2019.

Houses, the project of artist Dexter Tortoriello, played next. His band’s songs varied from heavy dance club beats to island-influenced slow jams and relaxed indie rock. Tortoriello was a likable frontman with a sultry and soulful voice and a dynamic range to cover a wide sonic ground.

“This song is about privacy—wow, tough crowd” Tortoriello said with a smirk before launching into streaming hit “Left Alone.” The band mixed in some new material over a 40-minute set, with the newer material leaning more rhythm-heavy and awash in vocal harmonies.

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