In Electric Blue: K.Flay at the Wonder Ballroom
Touring behind her latest record Inside Voices / Outside Voices, K.Flay raises a middle finger to the system, the bad vibes, and the voices of doubt in a cathartic and energetic sold out show at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom. Words by Bren Swogger and photos by Sydnie Kobza.
She storms the stage in electric blue—blue hair trailing behind her as she moves, constantly, gliding across the stage in a fire of energy. Hair electric, energy electric, the crowd feeds off the sparks as they fly, trading her energy for theirs to complete the circuit.
The past two years have seen a surge of activity from alternative hip-hop artist K.Flay. In 2021, she dropped two EPs, titled Inside Voices and Outside Voices. And to kick off the new year, the two were packaged into one full-length album. Though made up of two distinct and separate halves, the final product was extremely cohesive, each song flowing into the next to create a stellar narrative with a constant rise of energy.
Taking Inside Voices / Outside Voices on the road for the first time in full, the demand for K.Flay’s riotous show was high when she rolled into Portland on March 8th. Her first show in the city since a stop at the Crystal Ballroom in 2019, K.Flay had no issue selling out the smaller Wonder Ballroom well before she welcomed fans into the venue for the night.
As soon as she took the stage, the electricity in the room had reached a peak, as fans put their middle fingers to the air and screamed along to the lyrics of “Four Letter Words”:
FUCK YOU! YOU DIDN’T DESERVE ME!
But before the show could continue, letting the sparks sit in the air, K.Flay needed to set the scene for the night she was about to unleash.
“Tonight, I want to tell you a story,” she said, crouching down at the edge of the stage, mic cupped in both hands. “It’s a story about the voices in my head. Everyone here has a different past and different upbringing, but one thing we’re all trying to figure out is who to listen to.”
She continued, the crowd hanging on her every word: “We’re here to celebrate who we actually are. Tonight is about being a dreamer, a giver, a weirdo. Can I tell you that story?”
The crowd erupts into applause, and as the noise crescendos, the narrative of the night takes shape, and the show goes on.
With the scene set, the night became a scripted narrative that mirrored the themes of her latest album. As she played through blocks of songs, she paused between to give context to the order, to create a story out of the music she performed.
“I’m 8 years old and I’m worried,” she tells the crowd. “When people ask me what I’m worried about, those worries are too big… I see something on the horizon. It looks like a wave.”
As the words leave her lips, the band launches into “Black Wave”, blasting through the speakers and releasing another wave of energy through the crowd. There is a cathartic feeling that seems to wash over the room, and it all stems from the full on rock energy and persona that K.Flay brings to the stage.
To further exemplify her rock star status, K.Flay breaks out a shiny black electric guitar to shred on the song “Weirdo”—as if she already hadn’t proved herself enough—before pausing to set the scene once again.
“I’m 19 years old and I just found music,” she tells the crowd. “I listened to music before of course, but it’s different now. Now the music is talking to me.”
She goes on: “There’s a new voice in my head now. It is shouting. It is telling me I don’t have to live inside the rules anymore. It’s telling me the world is run by lunatics, and the only thing left to do is to throw my middle… fingers… up!”
As the opening notes to “TGIF” ring out, K.Flay speaks once again into the mic, directing the crowd in their mass purge of negative emotion, their collective cathartic movement.
“Put your middle fingers up and when the beat drops, let go of whatever is on your mind,” she says. And with that, once again, every middle finger in the room raises into the air as K.Flay’s words ring out, echoed by the collective voice of the crowd:
MIDDLE FINGERS UP TIL THE REAPER SHOWS UP.