Black Belt Eagle Scout Lucky Bar, Victoria BC, February 29
Published Mar 01, 2020You've gotta admire an artist who has something to say that needs saying, and Black Belt Eagle Scout were communicating before they hit the stage. Portland resident Katherine "KP" Paul created every sound on her first two albums as BBES, but live, she is typically joined by a full band. For this Victoria show, she was paired only with Camas Logue, who is a respected visual artist as well as her touring drummer. Positioned between them onstage was a red dress hanging from a mic stand, a dress that symbolized the missing and murdered Indigenous women that has basically amounted to a modern genocide.
As a queer Indigenous feminist, KP has no shortage of causes to champion, and she sprinkled them throughout the show. Of course, before she started playing, she paid respects to the Saanich, Lkwungen and other Salish peoples for the beautiful land we all graced. Paul was originally from the Swinomish tribe of Washington's Puget Sound, themselves part of the Central and Coast Salish peoples, so there was a personal connection there, but she expressed love for the environment as a whole. Near the end of her set, she dedicated "Indians Never Die," from her 2018 debut Mother of My Children, to the land defenders, like the Standing Rock Sioux who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The mood wasn't all so heavy, though. While her debut was loaded with serious anthemic messages, Paul's 2019 album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, was more about love and relationships. In her set list, KP balanced the sober socio-political statements with more traditional singer-songwriter musings on daily life, like "Going to the Beach with Haley," which is basically about going to the beach with her friend, Haley Heynderickx. She also proclaimed "My Heart Dreams" to be about vulnerability, just sitting with it even if you're not feeling okay about that.
After the opening land acknowledgement, KP admitted to having a few butterflies in her stomach due to playing as a simple guitar-and-drums duo. These nerves seemed to be reflected in their performance early on, as her sweet yet breathy whisper of a voice was mostly lost in the mix behind her alt-rock electric guitar and Logue's thundering toms and pattering kicks. However, about 20 minutes into their set, there was a significant delay as the sound guy worked out a monitor problem. The break allowed her to thank the crowd for taking time out of their day to see her and be with one another in a space where we could be real with each other, noting how she had teared up talking to thankful fans at the merch booth before their set.
Perhaps the initial monitor mix was truly that bad or the duo simply gained confidence as they went along, but after that break, Paul's vocals did sound clearer and her guitar more precise. The emotion that KP talked about during the delay seemed to carry into the next song. In performing the song of desire called "Real Lovin," her voice almost broke a little as she repeatedly sang, "There's real love!" While she often evokes more of a Sharon Van Etten vibe, in that moment, she could have passed for Adrianne Lenker from Big Thief.
In introducing "You're Me and I'm You," she said, "It's a little bit serious, but, you know, I think it's important to say serious stuff sometimes 'cause if you don't, then nothing is going to change." The song was about her mother, a survivor of the Sixties Scoop (a program of capturing Indigenous youth for adoption by primarily white families) who then subsequently had to rediscover her own culture. While that experience shaped who her mom was, the song itself was more about their relationship, Paul coming out to her, and the feeling of privilege that their love was able to continue, an experience that so many in the LGBTQ+ community have not enjoyed with their parents after honestly expressing who they are inside.
Left alone for last song, KP noted that she used to be a big fan of post rock, which is why she uses a lot of open tunings. Having only tried this song solo a couple times, she did an admirable job in playing "Soft Stud." Demonstrating emotive fretwork as she played over a loop of herself, the song was directly about queer love, but Paul dedicated it to all the love out there for us all. She's as generous as she is thoughtful, as delightful in small human moments as she is steadfast in larger conversations. We are lucky to share this planet with her.