Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Trent Burns
There’s no way around it; Kitten frontwoman Chloe Chaidez is a force to be reckoned. Her voice, her style, and her stage presence are all refined beyond her years – and it seems as though she’s just getting started. In support of their latest release, she and a re-vamped backing band (collectively, Kitten) drew a sizable crowd into the Rock and Roll Hotel last night with local and up-and-coming openers The Walking Sticks and Kitty.
Silver Spring natives The Walking Sticks kicked off the evening, and loosened up the still arriving crowd with their shoegaze-tinged brand of indie-pop. Lead singer Chelsea Lee’s dreamy vocals floated effortlessly over spaced-out guitars and punchy synth hooks, and made for a dream-pop blend that kept heads bobbing throughout the set. Notably, the local trio pulled out all the stops for “One Sweet Thing” by testing out some admirably synchronized dance moves, and then launched into an unexpected (but actually pretty awesome) cover of “Senorita.” Overall, The Walking Sticks sounded better than ever, and with big news on the horizon (I promised I wouldn’t say anything yet) their future is looking bright.
Next up to the stage was Daytona Beach hip-hop artist Kitty. In contrast to The Walking Sticks’ dreamy indie-pop, Kitty brought badass bass drops and rapid-fire raps to the table. “My name’s Kitty, and I’m touring with Kitten,” she joked, “that makes it kind of confusing, I know.” Despite nervously clutching a stuffed turtle (perhaps it was an act?), Kitty delivered top notch beats and witty lyrics that suggested experience beyond her 21 years. Songs like “OK Cupid” and “Orion’s Belt” kept things moving, and livened up the gridlocked crowd pressed up against the stage. Though the fresh-faced Florida native had a few rough edges performance wise, Kitty’s clever writing and club-friendly beats made it clear that she intends to make her mark on the increasingly popular female hip-hop scene.
Upon their arrival, Kitten made it instantly clear that they were in control of the stage, the room, and the evening as a whole. After an understated opening with “Why I Wait,” the band kicked into high gear with an explosively version of “Japanese Eyes” followed by their popular single “Cut it Out.” The drums shook the floor, the guitar and synth threatened to split eardrums, the bass rattled my ribcage – and I loved every second of it. Hands were thrown in the air and dancing ensued as Chaindez jumped energetically around the stage, but never missed a beat. In fact, I don’t think she ever even sounded out of breath. While she wasn’t afraid to show her LA punk roots, Chaidez made it clear that she meant business by delivering each and every belted lyric with the polished bravado of a veteran performer.
Kitten’s music has surely gone through a slow but steady progression since it’s early days as an LA garage-punk band (Kitten and FIDLAR share some founding members). Their first full-length album, Kitten, was released almost a month ago, and marks a significant shift in both Kitten’s style and overall aesthetic. Chaidez’s vocals, a welcome constant, are reminiscent of female powerhouses like Gwen Stefani or Hayley Williams (both of whom Kitten has opened for).
After turning up to 12 (forget 11) for a ballad-esque double feature of “G#” and “I’ll Be Your Girl,” Chaidez took up an acoustic guitar and sang a beautifully stripped down version of “Apples and Cigarettes.” If I had any doubts that this girl could sing, they were absolutely obliterated by this goose bump inducing solo acoustic feature. It was quieter, but the change of pace was a welcome one that truly showcased Chaidez’s voice and gave the set a sense of balance. Other highlights included popular songs from Kitten’s newest release like “Sex Drive,” “Cathedral,” during which a fan helped close the set by joining Chaidez on stage to dance.
Not content to leave it there, Kitten returned to the stage as is to double-check that everyone knew they owned the evening. The encore included another acoustic feature (“Kill the Light”), a new song (“Doubt”), and an old favorite (“Sugar”). The perfect balance of new and old simultaneously honored Kitten’s punk roots and embraced their new 80’s post-punk inspired sound. The performance overall felt like a fresh start for the LA outfit, and kept things interesting by allowing Kitten’s new lineup of musicians to put their own spin on Chaidez’s catalogue. It was loud, it was elegantly executed, and it was all over much too soon.