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Kid Koala's Space Cadet tour touches down in Toronto

Posted by Scott Snider / May 7, 2012

Kid Koala Space CadetKid Koala brought his immersive headphone multimedia concert experience to 918 Bathurst as part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend. Touring in support of his Space Cadet book and soundtrack, the turntablist cum graphic novelist sure knows how to put on a show.

Kid Koala Space CadetThere weren't many clues as to how the set would unfold as the audience wandered into the venue beyond a couple of illustrations from the book projected on three screens hanging above an impressive array of equipment on stage. Everyone picked up a set of headphones as they came in the door and found a spot to sit or lay back on the floor while mellow instrumental music washed over the gathering crowd. I noticed far more children in the audience then I had expected, but was soon to learn why.

Kid Koala Space CadetThe show started off with an opening set by Terence Bernardo on guitar accompanied by Kid Koala making various contributions using one keyboard in the centre of the room. Koala produced Bernardo's forthcoming album Dirge, and they bantered back and forth during this three song warmup. "How ironic is it that we're "warming up" what's supposed to be a chill concert with songs from an album called "Dirge," Koala playfully wondered out loud.

After a brief intermission, it was time for the main event. At this point we donned our headphones as the rest of the concert was sent over local WiFi direct to our headsets, completely by-passing the acoustic experience and ambience of the room.

Koala told anecdotes about several pages of the Space Cadet book, cracking jokes and laughing maniacally throughout. As he noted, this was like the director's commentary version of the book, though perhaps a bit quirkier than what you get on your average DVD/BluRay. After making it most of the way through the book he launched into "Skanky Panky," followed by the Space Cadet theme song written for his daughter.

Kid Coala Space CadetIt was at this point that the audience was beckoned to participate. Two young volunteers were brought to the front of the stage and handed contraptions that turned out to be a thumb wrestling game somehow hooked up to a video feed. Judging by the crowd's response, this was a successful little experiment (and the kids got a free copy of the book for their battle prowess).

Kid Koala Space CadetThe rest of the evening consisted of some incredibly sensitive and subtle musical moments. Highlights included "Remembrance" from the Space Cadet soundtrack and an incredible version of "Moon River" dedicated to Koala's mother. Some of the interplay he achieved using two turntables and the same piece of music was reminiscent of Robert Fripp's or Adrian Belew's most complex guitar work. Similarly,if you closed your eyes during "Drunk Trumpet," you could easily imagine that the song was coming from some jazz master at the top of his game blowing riffs. Koala has a deep understanding of music and the genres he plays with — yet everything looks almost effortless and fun.

For every serious piece of music he played, he also cracked jokes pretty much non-stop and continued to invite the audience to participate throughout the course of the night. After climbing into a giant Koala suit, he had the crowd on its feet going through the motions for the "Yo Gabba Gabba" theme song, wiggling their fingers in the air and giggling away like a roomful of preschoolers.

Kid Koala Space CadetOne tasty tidbit the DJ revealed is that work on the followup to 2000's Deltron 3030 is finally complete. Koala even played a bit for us...over his phone.

Kid Koala Space CadetAfter more songs and audience interactions — including a bit during which kids rang numbered bells in time with the animation — it was time to make room for the second wave of audience members. We collectively removed our headphones and deposited them in a big box on the way out. You might think that having spent most of the last two hours wearing these things would have left us feeling somewhat removed from our fellow attendees, but there's no sense of isolation at all thanks to Koala's great charisma and warmth.



Hamish Grant / May 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm
My son (10 years old) and I, and friends (shout-out to Syncros!) attended the Friday show - much the same setlist as the one reviewed here. We had a terrific time... my son participated in the video game segment and got a book bag and shirt for "winning" the game (asteroids with audience members' faces as the astroids) .. the bell interaction at our show was invaded by a birthday party's worth of giggling 10 year-old girls... it worked, though with KK demonstrating his fatherly patience...
Holla replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / May 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm
Syncros / May 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Great review of the show, but I'm not sure if Scott made it to the gallery room before the show. In the gallery was a number of interactive exhibits where participants could use vintage sound recorders and synthesizers, capture a picture of their face for a game of Asteroids, see the interesting far-out trees under bell jars, sit at a spaceship control console or even just decorate a yummy cookie.

Eric (Kid Koala) was in the gallery manning a kind of Plinko game where you could play and earn raffle tickets, and throughout the show he paused a few times to draw tickets where lucky winners got prizes such as books and tshirts.

It was the most creative concert I've ever been to and I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours I spent as a Space Cadet in the wonderful space that Kid Koala created. The 918 Bathurst venue was perfect for this. Kudos to the Wavelength team.

You can see my photos of the late show in my set on flickr:
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