Kimya Dawson brought an awkward stage presence to the High Noon Saloon Thursday. Standing stock still, eyes closed, with an awkward shyness, she spit out words in that goofy, childish voice that makes her such a memorable performer.
The Uncluded, a hip-hop, punk folk mash-up of a band that performed at the High Noon, is the union of Kimya and the clever Aesop Rock. They are downright hilarious as a duo: They have a parallel sense of humor that makes them a constant joy to watch. “That Cat Has Worms”, an amazing song from the deluxe version of their album Hokey Fright, was an audience favorite, with interchanging lyrics such as “Left for an hour, went to Zumba / my dog got eaten by the Roomba / That totally sucked.” The performance of the song included a number of tiny “meow”s and “poor cat!”s, little live idiosyncrasies that made the night especially goofy, weird and human.
The night started out with a performance by Chris Grant, which was eh: mostly just Grant walking in circles around the stage ranting in rap lingo, choking out words that no one could really hear.
With a growing crowd looming around the stage, Toki Wright & Big Cats gathered the audience in with a few laughs and a feeling of camaraderie. Their act felt more like part of an open mic night in the sense that Wright casually involved the audience in almost all of his songs, taking breaks in between to strike up conversations with random people along the stage. Wright was just an overwhelmingly cool guy with dreads, talking up Bob Marley with a rendition of “One Love” and showing off a humility that is seemingly rare to the rap genre, even among up-and-coming artists (Chris Grant included).
Nothing surprised me more than The Uncluded. Kimya Dawson, whose music became popularized through the indie hit Juno, is great as a solo act. I admit I was nervous about the duo, wondering whether the hip-hop vibe of Rock would etch well with the opinionated, shy, outlandish voice of Dawson. Yet it’s uncanny how perfect of a combination they are.
More often than not it’s hard to understand them. Half the time their agenda is getting the words out as fast as possible, as if any song couldn’t hold enough of their personal thoughts about one thing. Usually the choruses are cute and pithy enough to keep us involved, specifically “Boomerang,” the chorus of which is “Boomeroomerang Boomeroomeroomerang” over and over again. Don’t underestimate how fun it is to recite that.
Although their onstage charisma is lacking, their discomfort has a charm of its own. When Kimya breaks out her guitar, her fingers look like they’re almost shaking, but the little stutters of the strings bring an unrehearsed sweetness to the music. By the end of the concert they had found their place: involving the audience in a humorously messy rendition of “Tits Up” in which we all felt up invisible boobs in time to the chorus.
The Uncluded reaches out to the audience with blunt discussions of death, nostalgia and childhood while upholding a happy and untainted humor. They conduct discussions through music that are simultaneously absurd and empathic, never losing sight of their own indie flavor.