Kilo Kish drenches Oakland’s Fox Theater in industrial hip-hop beats but leaves something to be desired

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The Fox Theater in Oakland was packed from floor to balcony with die-hard King Princess fans last week. But before the King herself took the stage, the lights dimmed to introduce Kilo Kish, a clear commander of the space. All eyes were on the hip-hop/pop aficionado as she danced to her songs and delivered an electric performance, backed by a consistent, pulsing bass. Kish’s presence was introduced by a row of flashing white light panels, as she immediately launched into her first song. The audience had no time to prepare for the wave of synth-pop about to hit, but they still embraced it.

Lakisha Kimberly Robinson, known professionally as Kilo Kish, began her music career in New York, operating through SoundCloud and small record labels. She has released five EPs, one studio album and one star-studded mixtape, featuring the likes of Vince Staples, Childish Gambino, Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Ferg. She’s currently on tour with King Princess for her latest synth-heavy, electro-pop EP, REDUX

Prancing around in her ruched silver dress and sleek black bob, Kish gave off a futuristic vibe — a fitting accompaniment to the heavy electronic pop. Her show could only be described as theatrical, reminiscent of being in a hip and modern club straight out of a science fiction movie. Kish played her top songs, such as “Elegance” and “Like Honey” off of her EP mothe, sprinkled in among songs from REDUX. And somehow, her bob stayed straight and slicked down in the midst of her exaggerated movements.

The neon purple lighting complemented the flashing white panels set up behind her, the light moving to the beat. The dark setting of the Fox Theater only added to the mysterious and industrial atmosphere Kish and her DJ crafted. While Kish jerked across the stage, her DJ skillfully delivered a goth-influenced beat to accompany her singing. She interjected screams and pitched sounds into her lyrics, making the whirlwind that is Kilo Kish all the more chaotic.

Headliner King Princess and local drag queen Honey Mahogany came on after Kish, matching Kish’s energy with emotional deliveries of soft yet powerful queer anthems. As in Kish’s performance, songs that had any bass at all were boosted through the Fox’s speakers. In a sense, Kish’s performance prepared the crowd for the intensity of King Princess’s show to come, which was complete with King Princess berating the crowd, smashing a guitar and placing a pink bra thrown from the crowd on the neck of her guitarist’s instrument.

While Kish’s music is often described as hip-hop, art-pop and neo-psychedelia, it undeniably has dark and gothic undertones, giving her sound a unique flair that deviates from basic rap and pop. It follows in the footsteps of new wave music from the 1980s, but with a modern, almost-EDM twist. The acoustics of the Fox Theater amplified the bass to that of industrial levels, and fans were seen warming up to Kish’s music. Her soft voice was a nice juxtaposition to the backing music, though often drowned out by the loud, thumping beats.

For the most part, Kish’s energetic movement held the audience’s attention despite her short, 25-minute set. The short length of her set, while undoubtedly allowing her to leave a mark on the audience, clearly left them in some state of lukewarm approval. 

It certainly was not her music that was the problem — this was executed excellently. Rather, the brevity of her set and the deep bass overpowering her vocals detracted from an otherwise great performance. Kish attempted to hold her own against her DJ, and she was successful in putting on a visual show. Perhaps a longer set time would have given the audience more time to immerse themselves in Kilo Kish’s music, appreciate her talent and marvel at the intricacies of her songs.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].