Kid Koala is a complex figure in Canadian turntablism. You may already be familiar with Kid Koala’s work, even if you don’t know his name.
Eric San, more commonly known by his DJ name, is from Vancouver, British Columbia, and has built a solid career over the past 23 years, working on solo projects, collaborations such as Deltron 3030 and Lovage, appearing on work from acts like The Gorillaz, or from soundtracks of major motion pictures like “Shaun Of The Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” and “Baby Driver.”
While his recordings have brought him both critical acclaim and a devoted fan base, his live shows are vital in understanding why he has rightfully gained the respect and positive reception he receives.
Kid Koala returned to Newfoundland in May of 2019 for Lawnya Vawnya, a local festival celebrating music and art, his second LV appearance, having played in 2013.
When it was announced that Kid Koala was playing two separate events at Lawnya Vawnya 9, fans of his work – myself included – were very excited.
For first time listeners, it was a chance to see what the hype was about.
Both shows were incredible, and those lucky enough to catch both were able to see the duality of Kid Koala’s genius live shows.
Billed as a DJ set, the first show, at The Rec Room, a new deluxe venue in the Avalon Mall, was interesting from the start.
Surrounded by a bar, restaurant, arcade, bowling alley, virtual reality games, and an axe throwing range, the stage still managed to stand out.
Proceeding Kid Koala’s performance was Montreal’s Lonely Parade, a post-punk trio whose noisy, angsty tunes set an “anything can happen” kind of atmosphere for the rest of the show.
Armed with a set up of 3 turntables and a mountain of wax behind him, Kid Koala put on a spectacular show, proving that sometimes, you should believe the hype.
Cutting and scratching his way through both classics and deep cuts, spinning rock, rap, electronic and more, Kid Koala continued creating that “anything can happen” vibe.
He fused songs together as if they had been originally crafted with his routine in mind.
With an audience of captivated dancers at the front of the stage and intrigued onlookers at skeeball machines on the other side of the large venue, Kid Koala commanded attention.
Knowledgeable in how to engage a large crowd in a busy location, the artist made the show feel very personal and friendly.
When addressing the crowd, he not only acknowledged not only those in the front row but also the people in the restaurant, who were curiously peeking over their nachos, inadvertently attending a show they didn’t know would be happening.
As well as making people feel welcome, he encouraged creativity from the audience.
At the beginning the show, Kid Koala made a strangely specific request of those who wanted to take pictures and videos.
Many were expecting something along the lines of “no flash photography,” but instead, he asked people to not take boring shots, and to instead find imaginative ways to capture the concert.
The artist even went as far to allow people to come up on stage to get the best shots.
He also inserted himself into the musical selections as well.
At one point, Kid Koala took the audience on a “choose your own adventure” ride, letting the crowd control the song selection. He offered multiple options – his favourite musician Louis Armstrong, his mother’s favourite song, or his daughter’s favourite song. The majority was split between his mother and daughter so he did both.
The first selection was his mother’s pick, the Audrey Hepburn rendition of “Moon River,” followed with his daughter’s favourite, a composition he did for the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” This inspired a rambunctious scene on the dancefloor, as predominantly 19+-year-old danced like toddlers.
This set at The Rec Room showed not only Kid Koala’s technical skills as a DJ but also his ability to engage with people and draw positive energy from them. This theme of deeply connecting with his audience’s creative side was the basis of his next Lawnya Vawnya set.
On May 24th at Eastern Edge Gallery, the art gallery was bathed in low, ambient lighting for Kid Koala’s “Music To Draw To.”
An event built on the idea of showcasing the massive collection of music that the artist had compiled to listen to while working, “Music To Draw To” inspired attendees to exercise their creativity.
Spinning a wide array of ambient, downtempo music spliced a few of his more relaxed routines, participants were given a chance to unwind, while also having an environment for productivity, be it drawing, writing, or whatever they wanted to do.
While it was a huge departure from the high-energy dance party of the previous night it was just as enjoyable but for a wholly different reason. Instead of a crowd cheering on one person as they performed to the best of their musical abilities, “Music To Draw To” was a simplistic event – just one individual with some light, friendly conversation and musical encouragement, inspiring a room of people to be both serene and productive in the same moment.
Kid Koala’s shows made me a bigger fan of his music, while also giving me a greater appreciation for his approach and ethics. His large shows pump up a crowd but are also able to engage all those who want to listen, even in a distracting venue like The Rec Room.
His smaller “Music To Draw To” see Kid Koala almost taking a back seat, allowing the audience to focus on their own work – not just his.
Be it a packed concert or during a mental health break, do yourself a favour and check out a Kid Koala show, you’ll be glad you did.