The snow sparkled in the bright lights of Stage AE as it fell, blowing over us as it was carried by the breeze. It was roughly 28 degrees and the line to get inside the venue nearly went around the block, but the winter weather did not stop anyone from going all out with their outfits. Glittering sheer tops, leopard coats, and colorful sportswear adorned the crowd of young women/non-binary people anxiously waiting to get inside — dressed to the nines for their gay icon, musician King Princess.
I had the opportunity to see Kilo Kish and King Princess at Stage AE last Saturday as part of her Cheap Queen tour, and it was truly a restorative experience. As a longtime fan, King Princess has stood for everything I had hoped, and everything I currently hope for — a youth fully embracing and owning her sexuality and her gayness — and to see her live was an experience like no other.
But before King Princess herself entered the stage, the concert threw the audience into the experience known as Kilo Kish. She’s an artist who has been on the electronica art-pop scene for nearly a decade, having produced 5 EPs and a studio album with artists like Childish Gambino and A$AP Ferg. The audience had no introduction, no time to get acquainted with the woman in the ruffled pink dress in front of them, but all eyes were on her as she sang and danced to industrial hip hop beats. Performing her hit songs “Like Honey,” “Elegance,” and “Bite Me,” Kilo Kish was truly electrifying. White light panels flashed behind her along to the thumping bass — so deep that you could feel it in your heart — spelling out her name onstage. Large swaths of fuchsia and cool technology-blue saturated the stage, each color fully dominating her and her single accompaniment. The accompaniment, a multi-instrumentalist and producer, pounded on various sound boards to produce all of Kilo Kish’s electro-pop sounds live. It was honestly reminiscent of those dark, neon futuristic dance clubs you’d see in sci-fi movies, and it was incredibly cool. Kilo Kish had all the swagger of Azealia Banks and the cool factor of Icona Pop, balancing out a cute e-girl look with heavier, futuristic dance/house hip hop beats. If you’re curious to hear more of Kilo Kish, check out her latest EP, REDUX, released Dec. 2019.
The energy from Kilo Kish’s performance carried over into drag queen Bambi Qween’s lip sync performance. Dressed in tiered lavender ruffled pants, Bambi Qween vogued, walked, and danced, earning high-pitched screams of support from the audience. It was a small taste of ballroom culture, an LGBTQ+ subculture built by African-American and Latinx-American people.
And then, after some minor tech changes, the King herself appeared — King Princess. Though she matched the energy of the previous two performances, her songs brought out more of the emotional pain of heartbreak and love, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. Though only 21, she walked on that stage with the presence of an old rock star, effortlessly cool and breezy. Dressed in a white halter top and a black skirt layered over bright red pants, she fully embraced a non-gender conforming look – both streetwear inspired and easy to move around in. Somehow, she’s even cooler onstage/in person than she is in her music or interview videos.
King Princess performed nearly every single song from her recent album, Cheap Queen, including songs like “Ain’t Together” (a personal favorite), “Hit the Back,” and of course, her hit single “1950.” Each time a song started the audience would gasp and cheer with every ounce of energy they had in their body. We collectively swayed to solemn bitter songs of heartbreak, danced hard to more pop-like songs about love, and head-banged our way through a yet-unreleased rock-heavy song. I have yet to go to a concert that bridged such a wide range of genres and musical talent, and King Princess has mastered them all.
There were some major concert highlights in King Princess’s performance. Hearing “Pussy is God” live and the lyrics screamed by a room of queer women was honestly life-changing (to be so confident and strong and open about being queer!), as was watching King Princess throw her guitar on the ground and stomping on it a la Jimi Hendrix and seeing her stand atop the piano and shredding on the guitar. All of this is to say, she’s an incredibly talented and skilled performer, and her innate talents and schooling at USC really showed.
Best of all, I think, is that there is just something so reaffirming about being a space that is so welcoming and celebratory of your community. King Princess is often hailed as a gay icon, noticeably gender-fluid in her style and openly queer. It was clear that she knew what it meant to be in a venue made mostly of LGBTQ+ youth, and she proudly holds that mantle high.
Maybe this is just an internet thing, but a surprisingly large number of the Millennial and Gen Z LGBTQ+ community experience their “teenage years” during their 20s. Usually, this is a result of the lack of visible queer artists in our youth – there wasn’t much to point to, and the uncertainty that clouded our actual teenage years in a way prolongs an embracing of identity. Having spent my actual teenage years unsure about my sexuality and concerned about safely being open about it, I’ve found that my 20s are becoming my “gay teens.” In other words, the joy, the embarrassment, the frustration – all of the emotional highs and lows of being young and in love are happening later in life because so much of it was suppressed. Seeing King Princess, someone who doesn’t have to do that – who doesn’t have to prolong their embracing of their identity, someone who can live out the experiences and emotions of their teenage years in their actual teenage years, was all at once heart-warming and re-affirming. She represents a new generation of LGBTQ+ artists making music about their community for their community, and it is truly wonderful to be a part of that experience.
My friends and I walked out of Stage AE feeling our energy restored and feeling proud to have experienced the night with King Princess. We were proud to have celebrated who we are, because that’s what a King Princess concert is – a celebration of queer youth.
To hear more about King Princess, check out her newest album Cheap Queen, and keep your eyes and ears open for Cheap Queen Deluxe, releasing sometime in 2020. She will be touring in Europe with Harry Styles in the latter part of the year.