TVD Live: Kitten
at DC9, 5/19

It’s a long story, but I almost didn’t make it to DC9 on Sunday night. Luckily, I walked upstairs to the nearly-full venue and made my way through the crowd toward the front right before the band pushed past me to take the stage. As soon as Kitten hit their first note, I knew this was going to be one of those exciting shows where the energy sticks with you for a long time after—and that missing it would have been a mistake.

On Sunday night, the much-hyped, new wave, post-punk, dance act performed a loud, youthful set lacking in pretension and surprisingly mature and genuine. Currently touring with Paramore and having played the Fillmore Silver Spring the night before, this was a unique opportunity to see Kitten as headliner.

At this point, talking about Kitten’s youth screams cliché. Yes, the band’s frontwoman is all of 18 years old, the black underage “X” visible on her hands as she holds the mic. And yes, the remaining four band members were also born in the 1990s. But as they’ve been together for three years, have two EPs under their belt, and are readying the release of their first full-length album this summer, it’s quite a misnomer to call this band “new.” With a stage presence belying their age, Kitten makes it clear that while the members might still be young, they are at the beginning of a very long career.

Decked out in a black choker, chunky-heeled black boots (which came off almost as soon as the set started), and half of her hair in cornrows with the other half usually covering her face, frontwoman Chloe Chaidez demanded her audience’s attention. She is a force on stage, twirling and gyrating, arms out, climbing down into the audience, jumping up and down—and all while singing with power and control.

Often referred to as punk in her earlier days, meaning the ripe old age of 15, Chaidez and her band have evolved into a more complex sound in the years since. It’s not hard to track Kitten’s influences to ’80s new wave, post-punk, and electronic dance rock. But their synth-driven tracks have an air of youth and glamour and light that is somehow beautifully woven into the aggression and the grit that gives Kitten a feeling all its own.

With Chaidez’s charisma, it would be all too easy to ignore what else is happening on stage—especially with four young, generically-hipster looking guys dressed in all black behind the instruments. But with Kitten, failing to look beyond the front would be an unfortunate oversight. Drummer Lukas Frank has been with Chaidez from the beginning, with guitarist Waylon Rector and keyboardist Bryan DeLeon joining next. After cycling through several bassists since the band formed, Zach Bilson came on just this spring. While that could have led to a few easily-forgiven weak spots, the set was tight, and the band sounded like they had been playing together for years. If anything, the weak spots came in between songs—for instance, when Frank started into the next song with Chaidez still bantering with audience members.

Kitten played a mix of tracks from their 2010 EP Sunday School and their follow-up EP, 2012’s Cut It Out. The set kicked off with “Kill the Light” from Sunday School, a track Chaidez remarked that they don’t usually play. During the third song, Cut It Out’s “Junk,” Chaidez grabbed a pair of drumsticks during the instrumental part, and pounded the shit out of an extra couple of drums. It was loud and fast and intense and just perfect.

Toward the end of the set, Kitten played a new song, “Doubt,” promising that they would put it on the record if we liked it enough. With a heavy electronic dance and pop sound and less guitar-driven rock, it was a clue as to the direction we might see Kitten take on their full-length album.

There were a few moments during the set when Chaidez went just over the top—a few too many fist pumps during “G#,” for instance—and intention veered from music into the realm of straight performance. But luckily, they were few and far between.

The boys, particularly DeLeon and Bilson, had their own personal dance parties during each track, but came together as a group when Chaidez demanded. It made for a kinetic show with energy and commitment to the music emanating from every corner of the stage. Kitten isn’t a punk band, but there were moments of their live show were reminiscent of the best punk shows. With no holds barred, the band was just as committed to the music and the dancing as they hope the audience was—perhaps a trick that Chaidez learned from her father, Mike Chaidez, former drummer for punk band Thee Undertakers.

Nine songs in, the too-short set ended with Chaidez singing from the top of a fan’s shoulders, hanging onto the ceiling. The floor of DC9 was shaking as the audience danced. Earlier in the night, Chaidez explained that Kitten is on a “big old tour right now, but I like this better….Every time there’s more than 20 people at our show, we think it’s a fluke.”

So long as they continue on their current path, Kitten will be headlining their own “big old tour” with many, many more than 20 people lucky enough to experience their live shows. I’m just glad I was able to catch them this past Sunday night.

Photos: Richie Downs

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