On a quiet Monday night, on an unassuming San Francisco corner, fans crowded into The Fillmore for a night with queer royalty, Mikaela Straus, better known as King Princess. Queer couples were plentiful, the whole of the show feeling like a carefree space for fans to gather and celebrate both King Princess and each other.
And almost to make it abundantly clear how queer this show was about to be, before the highly anticipated headliner took the stage, a big-haired, glittery gown-wearing drag queen took the stage to deliver a lip-sync performance of Queen’s iconic “I Want to Break Free.” At first, it was hard to tell whether the choice to bring the queen on stage before her set was a San Francisco thing or a King Princess thing. It seemed to be a wondrous collision of the two, and as the queen made another appearance in the wings of the venue to take her seat for King Princess’s set, the crowd’s second bout of celebration for her made it clear that it didn’t even matter.
Then, promptly at 9 p.m., the Brooklyn-based artist ran onto the stage with the energy of a helium balloon that just got loose. Ground shaking screams of excitement ripped through the venue as King Princess began “Cheap Queen.”
King Princess’s allure and talent drew a vocal and thirsty crowd; “I’m in love with you” was shouted by too many fans to count and answered with a confident and coy “thank you” from King Princess. The fact that she has yet to release her first album has not stopped the rapid growth of her celebrity, and it certainly didn’t stop the packed crowd that gathered for her show. It is no doubt that this growing popularity, even without an expansive discography, is a result of her electric stage presence.
As a result of the small body of work she’s released, the audience was treated to quite a few unreleased songs off of her upcoming debut album. But watching those numbers, it would’ve been hard to discern whether or not the songs had been released because of the eager way the crowd engaged with the melodies. That said, when King Princess began some of her most popular songs, the crowd’s engagement made it abundantly clear which melodies it’d likely played over and over on its own.
When King Princess began “Upper West Side,” the crowd’s screams were loud enough to drown out the opening lyrics entirely. And the same followed with songs such as “Pussy is God,” an undeniably sexy number that the audience was beyond thrilled about. There was scarcely a moment when at least one member of the audience wasn’t screaming their heart out.
Seeing King Princess navigate her songs, engage with her band members and interact with the crowd made it hard to believe that she’s been releasing music for less than a year. While she had all the swagger of the 20-year-old that she is, she had the crowd and stage presence of a veteran songstress.
And the same could be said about the diverse array of musical genres showcased in her small discography. Over the course of the show, she slipped from high-energy pop numbers to sensual and velvety blues numbers. King Princess was zero to 100 in an instant, and it was as energizing to watch as it was impressive to see.
Her uniqueness is derived from her talent as much as it is the content of her music. Her propensity to sing about queer relationships and affection separates her into a very niche community of women making music about loving women. And even within that community, championed by icons such as Hayley Kiyoko, no one is making music quite like she is. Getting to witness an artist fully lean into their own identity was a truly transformative experience, and it is one that I hope many get the chance to witness as her popularity grows, as it is clear it will.
Areyon Jolivette covers queer media. Contact her at [email protected].