By Milo Anderson
“I’ve got a vibrating butthole…”
Those assembled at Caffe Bella to see KLED on Saturday night clamored for an encore. They were rewarded with what lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Pat Phlymm called the band’s “sensual” song.
“…Trembling on me/ It yawns and slurps for a stab of your peni/ ‘Cause I’m a gay man…”
KLED is a frightening band. I had seen them once before at the Blue Moon, and with a head full of cheap sake felt a jolt of panic. They created such a sense of confusion and disorientation, I believed I was hallucinating. Nothing that bizarre could be real.
The band includes lead singer and songwriter Pat, drummer Brian, bassist Jeff, and “stage prop” Chris. Brian and Pat both wore black skirts. Pat’s naked torso was graffitied with black magic marker with the words Lump, Plow, Cat and Box, along with numerous X’s. A stripe shaved down the center of his head – a kind of inverse Mohawk – had started to grow in. He loomed and gyrated above and before us; his open, friendly face only adding to the weirdness.
Chris St. Claire, the stage prop was dressed in a paper Trojan costume with plumed plastic helmet, sword and a shield emblazoned with “KLED PROLETARIAT.” He stood motionless at various corners of the room holding his sword threateningly. His job is to make the audience uneasy, and he does this very well.
Chris has been in the band three years, but said he has always loved being in front of an audience. He acted in school plays, played in many different bands and even tried miming once. Outside of KLED, Chris performs under the name King Fuck You.
Speaking of KLED’s music, Chris said it is at turns happy, sad, fast, rock, country…
“There is no genre,” he said. “You can’t put a genre on marijuana,” and he’s right. KLED’s music is real stuff. It’s a logical extension of the lives the musicians have led and the moments they experience, so it should come as no surprise that genre classifications suddenly seem useless. KLED has no pretense; they know why they make the music they do. Their goal isn’t to sound a certain way, but rather to affect the imagination of the listener. It’s only unfortunate that something so honest and personal could be misunderstood – or taken too literally. You don’t have to be gay to sing a song about being gay; all you need is a sense of humor and some perspective on yourself and your environment.
The band was started in Missoula, MT in the late 1990s. KLED’s website describes the music as “farm rock,” a term that warrants explanation by Pat. He said that the social fabric of rural areas lends itself to extreme forms of self-expression. “All of Montana except for a little bit in Missoula is really oppressive and redneck. So if you have alternative thinking people in these places people really want to beat you up a lot more. It just sort of stokes your fire to be more of a jackass.”
“There was a self-mutilation band in Montana…things like that,” he added.
“We were playing a show at a place called Jay’s Upstairs, and some people came down from the Flathead Indian Reservation,” said Pat. “These guys were Indians but they all had these platinum blond girlfriends. We were singing ‘I’m a gay man…’ They turned out to all be tripping on acid, and it really pushed their homophobe nerves. A friend of theirs came up and said, ‘They have a gun, they want to fuck you up.’ Our friends that knew us in the crowd made sort of a blocking wall as we went out the back to dive into the back of a pickup truck. We came and picked up our equipment the next day.”
While the band played on that Saturday, passersby looking in the huge picture windows had an almost uniform expression of confusion and amusement. Two middle-aged gentlemen stopped outside to watch and listen. They were both named Steve, in town for the American Library Association conference and in great spirits. Steve from Alberta joked, “You get a bunch of librarians together and they can really put it away.” Steve from North Carolina was particularly thrilled with the band. “This is like American Showcase,” he said. “You can dance to this. I’m a ballroom dancer, you know?” he said, slapping me on the back. Eventually the two men decided to go inside, have one more beer and listen to the rest of KLED’s set.
And when KLED thanked the audience and started to leave the stage, it was Steve from North Carolina who cheered the loudest for them to continue playing.
KLED play Mars Bar / Cafe Venus on Saturday, December 15 with The 39 Steps and Oscar’s Mad.