Kid Koala, Scala, London


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The Independent Culture

I can safely say that this is the only gig I’ve ever been to where oven gloves are a feature of the merchandising stall. But then Kid Koala is no ordinary performer.

The Canadian turntabalist, known to family and friends as Eric San, has never embraced conventionality. His sumptuously self-illustrated album covers are more akin to mini masterpieces than just an afterthought to the disc within. And yes – you guessed it – he does don a koala outfit for much of his set tonight.

The Scala is sadly not packed to the rafters to witness tonight’s London leg of the 12 bit Blues Vinyl Vaudeville 2.0 Tour but there are more than enough Koala converts to ensure that the show goes off with a bang. This is the tour to help promote his latest album 12 Bit Blues – an outstanding opus that breathes new life into deep slabs of deep fried Southern Blues. Rather than just borrow the odd hook here and there, Koala manages to chop, dice, mix and merge snippets of down and dirty blues to create a new work, which while being bang up to date in its production values retains the melancholy, yearning sense of true Blues.

To bring his tunes to life the turntabalist extraordinaire has enlisted the help of performance artistes Adira Amram and the Experience. As a delectable starter to the musical feast to follow, the NYC trio whip the crowds up with a hilarious high-kicking musical comedy workout that has us in stitches. And then, with barely a pause, the main man takes to the stage.

To appease the old skool Koala fans there are two screens wired up to cameras that scan his every move over the decks. But the majority of us are not watching that. Instead we are captivated by a show that’s held together by the Experience – part 1950s airline hostess, part high class burlesque act. They bring the tunes to life with feather dances, pouting, posturing and some seriously smooth moves. Throw in life-size foam puppets, a kazoo off, crowd surfing, a conga that twists through the crowd and giant paper aeroplanes and you get some idea of Koala’s vision.

In essence all we are watching is a man remixing old vinyl and manipulating samplers, yet the show easily outclasses many live bands. It blurs the line between gig and arthouse performance and in the process creates one of the most genuinely entertaining nights out I’ve had in a long time. And yes – I did buy an oven glove!