The first band had not even taken the stage, and there they stood: a group of girls in matching black t-shirts adorned with homemade professions of love for The Kin. “We (heart) Issac and Thorry!” said one in loud pink paint. Another shirt was covered in song titles and lyrics. They would remain in their front-row spots for the entirety of the show.
The Kin are definitely on to something if they are already able to earn such captivated fans, and as their set at Cafƒ© 939 proved, they are able to reach beyond the fanatical to draw in the entire room’s worth of people, which pressed their way as close to the stage as they could.
The first two acts did not manage to entrance the audience as much as the brothers Koren, but were still perfectly respectable additions to the show. Kicking things off was the Jamie McLean Band from New York City. What they brought was a pretty meat-and-potatoes brand of pop-rock, carried by McLean’s elastic voice and solid guitar riffing. McLean seemed to playing with a sense of desperation during his set, as there was a ten-foot gap between the Kin super fans and the rest of the crowd. He was a man given the thankless task of warming up for the band that everybody was there to see, which is what made songs where he swung for the stands, like the gritty, bluesy stomper “Ain’t Nobody Like My Baby” that much more thrilling.
New Haven, CT’s Queen Killing Kings were up next, and came very close to stealing the entire show from under The Kin’s noses. Armed with a two-keyboard, bass, and drum setup, the four-piece launched into a frantic set of majestic, doomy cabaret pop, marked by the manic stage presence of lead singer/pianist Coley O’Toole. Like a more upbeat Black Heart Procession, The Queen Killing Kings’ songs stayed firmly rooted in creepy minor keys, accentuated by Zac Clark’s horror-movie organ stylings and the ominous bass thud of Joe Ballaro. The heavily bearded and sideburned band easily won the most converts of the night, and their enthusiastic, airtight set only proved that they deserve it.
With excitement at a fever pitch within the venue, The Kin emerged and launched into their set. The first two songs were delightfully knotty pop, characterized by the Koren brothers’ immaculate harmonizing. However, if The Kin need to learn anything about live performance, it is in the sequencing of their set. After the opening salvo, the group leaned back into a long procession of ballads and quieter material. The drummer and bassist even left the stage for a four-to-five song stretch.
While each of The Kin’s songs stands well on its own, the middle section of the set seemed to drag quite a bit. It is usually not a good sign when a young woman is asleep on a couch in the back of the venue in the middle of the set. After the perpetual slow-dance section, things perked up a bit with the inclusion of TheUPside standout “Animals” a slow burner based on bubbling electronics and hypnotic repetition. The brothers jumped into the audience and formed a circle around them for the sea-ballad “Abraham” a tactic that sent many scrambling for their cameras and cellular devices in order to capture the action.
Things like the slow middle section of The Kin’s set are aspects of the show that only critics will notice. The line of girls held at rapt attention, singing each song like it was written especially for them pay no mind to things like set pacing. The command over their audience and the sincerity of their songs will be more than enough to carry The Kin to higher things in the future, but it’s their honesty and openness as people that will keep those fans with them even longer.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Ney