Some musicians dress up in Halloween costumes when they play gigs on Oct. 31. King Khan dresses up pretty garishly anyway, so as far as I could tell, his outfit on Friday at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge was not a special one for the occasion. Khan put on a bonkers show this summer, one of the highlights of the Pitchfork Music Festival. For that gig, he had the Shrines playing behind him, featuring horn players and dancers for a full-blown soul-garage sound.
He was back in town this time with a considerably smaller lineup – the two-person band King Khan & the BBQ Show, which pairs Khan on vocals and guitar with guitarist-drummer-singer Mark “BBQ” Sultan. Guitar-drum duos like – well, you know who – long ago proved that two people can make plenty of noise and music with just a couple of instruments, though I have to say it’s more fun to see Khan with the big Shrines. Khan & BBQ certainly whipped up the Bottom Lounge crowd into a moshing frenzy, though. Khan was wearing one of his trademark wigs and a beaded sort of outfit that made him look like a kitschy version of some ancient Middle Eastern monarch, while BBQ had his head wrapped in a red turban as he pounded out primitive beats with his feet. Their 1960s-style garage rock sounded raw and scrappy.
It was the culmination of a four-band bill, following a jokey show by the Goblins, who played their covers of the lame ’70s songs they call “Uptown music,” such as the theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Whatever you call it, the original music is lame, and I had no interest in hearing anyone cover it now. Earlier in the night, CoCoComa played a fun set of its noisy rock. And an all-male band from Calgary called Women started out the night with an intriguing set of artistic psychedelic rock. I picked up the album by Women (on the Jagjaguwar label) at the show and was surprised to hear how different it sounds from the band’s live performance. The record’s more layered and strange; the live version was more direct, but still tinged by off-kilter beats and some Syd Barrett-style vocal melodies. In either format, Women is an interesting band that shows promise.