K. Flay is currently on tour with AWOLNATION. She just finished a tour with Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional. Before tours with bands you’ve heard of she opened for pizza. -ed.
I don’t think I’ve ever told this story besides a close group of friends. Trusted friends, I know you’re a trusted friend.
It was three and a half years ago. I believe it was in the fall, gonna go with the fall. So picture yourself in a transitional season and we had a show at a college in upstate New York.
I cannot recall the college and I kind of don’t want to because it was shitty, I don’t want to denigrate them because maybe that was like an off day, maybe it was just bizarre circumstances that was out of anyone’s control.
I was living in New York at the time so my drummer and I drove up. It was just the two of us. Nobody bore witness to it because it was just the two of us and like no one could appreciate what was going on and how strange it was. We get to the show and it’s a big college show that you know could be a little bit weird, those kinds of shows you often get a lot of money and nobody shows up but nobody cares.
We were prepared for a strange show. I was ready for it to be weird. We had just come off an experience where we legitimately opened for pizza, like that’s not even a joke, during the show people were like, “When’s the pizza coming?” The only reason anybody came to the show was for the promise of pizza after the performance, so that was like debasing and humiliating and that had just happened and that was at a college so we were ready for anything.
We get to this spot and the show is in a gym like where you can play basketball, shit like that, volleyball. There was a huge stage set up and the greenroom or whatever, it was in a locker room, it smelled like a pool, kind of an athletic smell going on.
We’re there to do a one hour set, that’s long! There’s some of my favorite artists that I don’t even know if I’d want to sit through for one hour. You just want to hear the hits and call it a day.
This other band is playing the same show. They’re a Scottish duo, the college has flown them in from Scotland. It’s their first time in America. I’m worried and concerned that they are gaining an impression of this country from this experience. And I’m like that is not going to happen.
BYT: You felt like a cultural ambassador.
I was a cultural ambassador, I took it upon myself. So I was in the midst of negotiating that whole situation and trying to reassure them and like, “No guys, this is totally strange,” because they were freaked out, like “What the hell is this?”
We are sound checking, getting things set up and stuff and people start coming into the gym and we feel pretty good, people are coming to watch the show maybe? That would be good. But as it happened, they were not coming in to watch the show, they were coming in to play indoor flag football. I’ve never seen that.
BYT: That’s an outdoor activity.
Yeah, it’s an outdoor game, but they’re inside. And we’re about to go on and all the bleachers were folded up, so it was just a big stack, no bleachers and in front of the stage horizontally, the game is taking place. And when I say game, there’s like speakers, buzzers, someone is officiating the game, there’s a referee, I don’t know who it was but somebody was like monitoring the rules, enforcing them, and people are shouting like during any type of game like “ball here”, “tap it”, “good job” ,“high five”. So I said to the girl in charge, “Do we go on after this?” she goes “No, no, you’re on in five minutes.” The game is happening literally in front of our face. It totally prevented anybody from even watching the show because even if you wanted to see the show, there’s like forty feet of people playing flag football in front of your face.
You know you can either be bummed out and you know and sort of be like, “How have all of the events in my life led me to this?” but also kind of validating because you know you feel like a little ant on the side of someone’s leg, you know what I mean?
I was playing as if there were a crowd and people listening but just nobody was listening, nobody cared, it was to the point where no one was even glancing our way!
We did this song called “Sunburn” where I often tell people to lift up their hands and arms so for the end of the set I guess there were like bleachers on the ground on the very other end of the gym and I was like “Alright you college, whatever, put up your hands,” to see if anyone was listening and one kid, first of all he was in the back of the gym, kind of like slowly creeped his hand up so, that kind of felt like the ultimate connection. That was the only good thing about that one.
BYT: Did you end up playing the entire hour set?
We played like a one hour set well maybe a little shorter, like 15 minutes shorter.
BYT: Were you before or after the Scottish duo?
We were before the Scottish duo and it was kind of like that moment where they had witnessed what has just happened to us and they were like “what in God’s name” and we kind of like patted them on the back and peaced out. So I actually never saw them play!
BYT: Oh no!
I know, isn’t that shitty of me? But we had to drive back and we had to get there by like 9 or something like that, we were in a rush, we were like five hours away, so we kind of just bounced and as I look back on that now it kind of was a shit move.
As told to Brandon Wetherbee. Edited for clarity. Assistance from Nathalie Pollack.