The Gray Kid, Project art gallery, 9/16/06

In lieu of heading to Austin for this year’s ACL Festival, Annie and I took off on a secret trip to Los Angeles. We played with our little 5-month-old nephew (kid loves me) and managed to make it out on the town Saturday night to check out the Gray Kid at Project. (OK, so the $10 donation for the open bar was a draw, too.)

Ben recently turned me on to the stylings of the Gray Kid, and within a day I bought his album, … 5, 6, 7, 8, saw him live and chatted him up about playing a show in Phoenix. Screw LA, man; you haven’t made it till you play Phoenix, damn it.

At first blush, you wouldn’t take the Gray Kid for the lyric-spittin’, beat-makin’ hip-hop machine he is. On Saturday, he was decked out in jeans and a black-and-turquoise thrift-store sweater with a bandana fashioned around his neck like an ascot.

But his beats. Lord. No white kid possibly could be responsible for those. On stage, the Gray Kid flies solo, backed only by his iPod, on which he’s sequenced the music for his entire set.

If his rig limits any sort of improvisation, the Gray Kid compensates with his arm-swinging, sweaty energy. I say sweaty because he was wearing that damn sweater: “Is anybody else wearing wool in here?” That was funny.

He spent a majority of the set standing (and stomping) on a foot stool, like a street-corner preacher yelling off the microphone and flailing his arms to implore the gallery-goers, many of whom were innocent bystanders checking out art but instead got caught up in the flurry.

What can’t be overstated about the Gray Kid’s stage presence is his level of interaction with the crowd – and, in this case, the artists working on a live mural during the show. Granted, performing in the corner of an art gallery on a makeshift stage affords a more personal experience than any club show. But the Gray Kid walked through the gallery whilst singing and (gasp!) made eye contact with fans, even if maybe it made them a little uncomfortable.

Oh, about the music? He’s a bit of a chameleon – singing falsetto one verse, rapping the next. It’s mostly unpredictable. What do you say about a guy who can rap that he’s got a “dick like a comet” (Like a Comet) and then lay out soulful crooning (Lonely Love) without a hint of irony? (And he goes unplugged, too.)

But do yourself a favor. Buy … 5, 6, 7, 8 and listen to One Question, a dis track that’s worth the cost of admission alone when he claims, “labels couldn’t hold me like a charge on cheap phone.”

The Gray Kid | $$$Clip

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