“King Khan warms up for Pitchfork at Bottom Lounge”
By Benjamin Ortiz, Special to the Chicago Tribune

Section: Tempo
Date: July 21, 2008

Before a jangling soul meditation on government-subsidized foodstuff, King Khan declared, “I spent four years on welfare—who here is on welfare?” To derisive hoots he snapped, “At 15 bucks a ticket, thanks for coming!”
Following with his tune “Welfare Bread,” Khan called it: The Poor Man’s Pitchfork. King Khan and the Shrines plus Jay Reatard at the Bottom Lounge on Saturday night was an affordable alternative for those who couldn’t fight the crowds, dodge the rain and come up with cash to get a spot at the big festival.
And yet the heavy juju crafted by Khan et al. was as pungent as any sweaty outdoor jam. Khan warned, “We’re going to smell your fingers after this next song!” Then, he kicked into knock-down, drag-out gospel sermonizing that put the crowd in a call-and-response tizzy, with hands raised to the firmaments, knee-slapping “Hallelujahs!” and creepily inspirational organ noodles.
The new Bottom Lounge location doesn’t qualify as authentic Chicago gospel, but it is on the cusp of a growing West Loop entertainment corridor. Housed in an old auto-body shop, the front bar area faces empty lots and the Green Line track, with exposed brick and tubing for a postindustrial feeling. Also, a second-floor deck provides great views of the downtown skyline with outdoor bar and DJ stations. The main-stage area itself is a snug, dark room of noisy delights, with great sightlines and rock nooks.
But for all the creature comforts, Khan just wanted to dredge up the local demimonde for down-and-dirty neo-R&B: “This next song is for all the freaks, fags and junkies: Don’t get a sex change, just do more drugs.” Quoting a song title by fellow Montrealer Peaches, Khan sang “I Wanna Be a Girl,” the chorus catching on like a manifesto. Next, festooned in crocodile tears, Khan stumbled around all broken up, a mock shambles of a man, for his song “Shivers Down My Spine” a la James Brown on “Please, Please, Please.”
King Khan and the Shrines rocked the hardwood stage from end to end literally, with a multi-instrumental lineup almost falling out into the crowd. With fake Native American and pseudo-Hindu chants straight out of “The Temple of Doom,” band members summoned Khan for an encore. Cloaked in a bizarre mask, silver flapper spangles, hot pants and cape, Khan came back for “Live Fast Die Strong,” a perfect closing statement.

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