Oftentimes, artists seem like unreachable entities. They’re often packaged to the public in this way: A carefully crafted image of a star, who although still adores their fans, is ultimately meant for the upper echelon. With elaborate performances and intricate social media posts, onlookers are reminded that artists are meant to be in a different realm or a different world that very few people have access to truly understanding.
It was easy to forget the separation between viewer and vocalist when watching Kennedi perform at The UC Theatre on Nov. 15. Opening for Bea Miller on the “sunsets in outerspace” tour, Kennedi chipped away at this rigid barrier that many in the industry insist upon. In a simple striped shirt and cargo pants, and with wavy platinum locks clasped away in an effortless ponytail, she mimicked the audience’s fashion sense. It was a poignant reminder of how close in age everyone in the crowd was to her.
A singer-songwriter hailing from Minnesota, Kennedi instantly fooled the crowd into forgetting her roots. It was easy to be deluded by her simple, trendy outfit and blonde locks. She looked more of a California cool girl with a Brandy Melville-based aesthetic, rather than the effortlessly flirtatious, tough girl persona she exhibited throughout her set.
“You thought I was about to get on the stage and f— it up?” Kennedi yelped before throwing down the microphone stand during one of her performances.
Later, Kennedi promulgated how “good looking women in California” were. “Give me your number,” she teased to the audience’s uninhibited squeals. She had even charmed the main act of the night, Bea Miller. While Kennedi was performing, Miller weaved through the crowd to find a place in front of the barricade and quickly assumed the role of an overcommitted fan, instead of the show’s premier performer. Kennedi continued to belt out notes with a firm hold on Miller’s outstretched hand. As Miller retreated into a corner on the ground floor, fans nervously approached the singer for a photo. She politely insisted on focusing on Kennedi’s performance, not wanting to detract any focus from her set.
The UC Theatre, a smaller venue, easily accommodated this intimate crowd interaction. While onstage for mere moments, Kennedi still intended to make the night memorable for the compact crowd, taking full advantage of the event’s size. She relished in this connection with her audience, forgoing any semblance of a structured performance for a conversation with her fans.
It was clear that Kennedi’s energy was roused by the showgoers. They cheered on when she gravitated toward her guitar or performed even her primarily autotuned singles. Despite being grating at times, the autotune didn’t impede her music from instantaneously energizing the crowd that zealously sang along.
Kennedi approached the show as though it was a backstage meet-and-greet and performance rolled into one. The music continued to play, as she laughed, more occupied with interacting with fans than strictly performing. During a performance of an unreleased track called “Sorry,” she professed to being inspired by falling into long periods of watching YouTube videos. She then tried to teach attendees the beat of the song in order to follow along. She emitted more of a croaking noise than a comprehensive beat and quickly acquiesced in playful shame once the audience laughed uncontrollably.
Despite being in the middle of singing her songs, Kennedi interjected with comments about the audience. “Oh s—, hit that note!” she exclaimed to a fan, who belted the song at the top of her lungs. Throughout her performance, she would precariously hang off of the edge of the stage, crouching over in order to hold the gazes and hands of the crowd.
Kennedi is a young artist clearly aware of the accessibility and connections admirers and singers can have in this day and age of artistry. She has the professionalism of an artist not yet jaded by the industry’s demands. Instead, she is fueled by her yearning to create for and connect with her fans. It was refreshing to see an artist not wanting to create a seemingly inaccessible persona for themselves but live simply as an artist in love with her craft.
Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].