It’s the night before Thanksgiving Eve in New York City at Bleecker Street institution (Le) Poisson Rouge. The impressively multiracial crowd of industry types, late teens, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and the “cool mom” in Mean Girls are all gathered under one roof.
Faint wafts of Sour Diesel fade in and out as an ill fitting soundtrack of T.A.T.U. and Jewel fills the air, beckoning newcomer KIIARA to hit the stage. Attendees are either intoxicated with liquor, pot, pills, or enthusiasm—yet it all bleeds together thanks to the headliner’s musical style.
Best described as downcast electro-pop punctuated with trap, KIIARA right now is in a class by herself. Her authenticity of being inspired by hip-hop without exploiting it has given her career legs, despite early critiques that she was muddying the purity of trap music with her pop-leaning sound. Whatever that means.
The final leg of her Low Kii Savage Tour (for the EP of the same name) was sold out, just in time for her first single “Gold” to grab a remix featuring Lil Wayne. The dank basement venue has housed several female acts moments before they erupt into stardom. Sia performed there—back when her face was within visibility—as well as Florence and the Machine, Lorde, and many others.
For KIIARA, the location was perhaps the last tiny show she’ll ever play. It’s been a steady climb for the Illinois native turned Los Angeleno. “Gold” dropped in 2015, found its way to an Apple Watch commercial, yet took a calendar year for KIIARA to truly be gilded. It finally happened, the single sold a million, and here we are.
She took to the stage transformed from just a few awkward months prior. Her raven locks turned flaxen, as she sported sunnies and a mesh see-through hoodie, with a confidence that can only come from record sales. With a sound that’s a synesthetic vision board of promethazine, synths, codeine, and grillz, translating that to a stage feels damn near impossible. Yet KIIARA somehow pulls it off.
Opening with her whiskey-tinted “Tennessee,” the singer glided through every cut off Low Kii Savage with some bonuses. Vocal manipulations, a live band, and a stage set of alternating strobes with every song accentuated the trappiness of EP cuts like “Feels,” “Hang Up Tha Phone,” and “Intention,” plus new tracks “Again” and “Wishlist.” She sprinkled in a cover of Lil Wayne’s “Drop The World” and her latest “Dopemang” with Ashley All Day for good measure before wrapping up with her biggest hit yet, “Gold”—extending it into a crushingly lit up breakdown that was potent enough to come with a seizure warning. The basement, the crowd, the vibes. It was like a rave, led by 21-year-old girl whose humble beginnings brought her here. “I slept on a futon, I couldn’t pay my rent, and now I’m here in front of you guys performing,” she told the crowd. “I never thought any of this would ever happen.”
While KIIARA’s set wasn’t long, it was just enough to close out her tour and bid farewell to what can now be described as her early days. Before “Gold” turned Platinum.