Why Hiatus Kaiyote Tastes Like Paella
Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article the title will make sense to you. Let’s set things straight. Hiatus Kaiyote is Grammy Nominated Jazzy R&B ensemble out of Melbourne, Australia. They’ve worked with members of A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson.Paak. Additionally they’ve gained attention from stars like Animal Collective and Erykah Badu. Paella is a classic Spanish dish that has a little bit of everything and the kitchen sink in it: rice, chicken, beef, beans, artichoke, saffron, rosemary, shrimp, sometimes snails, and a little bit of that leftover thing that has been in your fridge for too long but you don’t want to throw out because it might be your roommate’s. I got the chance to interview Hiatus Kaiyote at The Observatory in Santa Ana before their show. Drummer Perrin Moss mentioned that their sound in food form would be none other than, you guessed it, paella. It makes sense really because paella doesn’t taste like anything besides paella, and Hiatus Kaiyote doesn’t sound like anything but themselves, even with the elaborate array of parts making up the whole.
LA trip-hop producer Teebs opened up the show with a zoned out assortment of orchestra noises, mixed into drum loops, mixed into chopped and screwed rap vocals. Hunched over his mixer with a backdrop of twinkling stars and watercolors, he set a melancholy and spaced out mood for the evening. The crowd applauded him in his efforts, but it did little more than make them shift weight from left foot to right. They knew what was coming and so did Teebs.
Backstage was a frenzy of childlike exuberance. Bassist Paul Bender, keyboardist Simon Mavin, and drummer Perrin Moss cracked jokes about the nerves of playing a show for the first time in a month, bouncing up and down and shoving each other about like a gaggle of boys before a middle school dance. Descending from the staircase came their lead singer and ring leader Nai Palm, with an air of coolness about her while maintaining a joyous visage. She donned a Michael Jackson shirt, which she later referenced during the show, and a frilly black jacket that reflected light off of it in every direction. She smiled at the crew, nodded her head, and led them into the haze of smoke that had formed on stage.
The band took their positions, made minor tune ups to instruments, and embarked on their journey to get the crowd grooving. It took no time at all. The first falsetto set the crowd into a frenzy. The bourgeoisie seated in the bottle service balcony were casualties to infectious wave of soulful melodies. The people in the pit closed their eyes and bobbed their heads, hanging onto every word from Palm as if it were controlling them. She ran the show with a sympathetic swagger, connecting with the audience on a pseudo-spiritual level. She switched between donning a guitar and sensually dancing about in an array of movements, only comparable to her giant vocal range.
The band roared through their hits from their most recent album “Choose Your Weapon,” slowing down only to jam out a little bit longer on the tail end of tracks. In between songs the crowd witnessed each band member looking at each other and smiling, in awe of the effects they were having on the audience. Mavin duel-wielded synthesizers of different sounds, playing each simultaneously in ambidextrous fashion. His performance brought cries of “turn up the keyboards” from an eager fan. The movement never stopped coming.
Towards the end of their set, as they played their hit track “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk.” The jazzy elements of this song turned The Observatory in Santa Ana, into a back alley speakeasy.
The crowd didn’t want it to stop when the lights came back on, and chants of an encore echoed. The members returned, still giddy with excitement, to play their Grammy-nominated song “Nakamarra,” but Palm didn’t need to say a thing as the crowd belted it out word for word. She took pauses to let out a few tears; she left the stage and allowed the rest of the band to jam out and cling onto that connection they had formed with their audience. It then came to a close.
Everyone walked out of the venue raving about the performance in a content satisfaction. The crowd left full and happy. It was the best paella they had ever had.
Peter Jensch is a KCPR DJ and Cal Poly business administration junior.