Kool Keith at Mad Planet
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Given his unfettered creativity and well-publicized eccentricities (often pointed to as symptoms of a perceived mental illness), Kool Keith is not a performer whose shows should be walked into lightly. It’s not, as it may seem, a matter of voyeuristic curiosity being piqued by the possibility of a reputedly crazy guy acting, well, crazy; rather, it’s the promise of witnessing the flow of a stream of consciousness so funny, sharp, and hugely imaginative that it’s too much for a single identity. Clearly, someone like Kool Keith needs to be spread across a variety of alter egos and split personalities. Either way, it’s best to keep your expectations in check while also anticipating a surprise or two.
The most substantial shock of Keith’s performance at Mad Planet Saturday night actually came when his set actually began within a reasonable wait of its predicted start time. (There are many words to describe Kool Keith, but “punctual” isn’t exactly among them.) There was nothing particularly outrageous, or even particularly notable about his presence—no rubber hair or pharaoh headgear—though musically, there was a lot to take in. The varied set list, roughly grouped and sequenced by Keith’s various aliases, seemed designed to appease as many segments of his fan base as possible, whether they came looking for Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, or whoever else onstage. And yet, even the most familiar songs still felt fresh and unpredictable, spruced up with subtly alternate lyrics that may not have been freestyle, but at least felt extemporaneous. The only frustration was when one classic beat or another popped up, only to end up being but a short part of a medley. But even that unfortunate shortcut allowed Keith to represent more of his eclectic catalogue.
It was nice to see him do his thing in a relatively small room, doubly so considering the clear sound quality. There was even a strange kind of coherence between Keith’s lurid imaginings and the décor of Mad Planet, with all its atomic-age kitsch and leftover trippy rave imagery. Though the club rightfully gets packed for the likes of the Get Down and Retro Night dance parties, it’s rare that it features such a high-profile show. If Saturday was any indication of a change, it’s a good reason to start watching Planet’s schedule more closely. If the show turned out to be a fluke, at least it was a fun, memorable fluke.