Kali Uchis Live


Tuesday had singles, couples and everyone-in-an-its-complicated-relationship in between, cruising down to Santa Ana to attend a special Valentines Day show put on by indie-soul songstress Kali Uchis. As the doors opened, the nights tone was already being set by a classic car show in the lot of The Observatory while Oakland’s B-Side Brujas, an all female vinyl DJ collective, spun tunes fit to transport anyone back to the days when cruising Boulevards was a heavy knit part of counter culture in Southern California.

This thematic environment continued inside the venue as an array of fans donning a truly unique style of 60s retro, 70s groove and modern LA edginess, that the songstress has helped maleate. Leopard prints to winged liner to fur jackets to lots of denim, the fashion trends of the night were as cohesively diverse as the crowd that sported them. Cementing her fashion influence, Kali’s very own merchandise including “Por Vida” shirts and white sunglasses made a habitual appearance in the crowd.

Kali Uchis live

Observing peoples interactions taking place inside the sold out venue, I noticed it was packed with just as many singles as there were couples. The songstress managed to create a night fit for any lover to celebrate, before she had even made her presence known. From those celebrating Galentines with friends, Valentines with a lover or just another great Taco Tuesday (I went alone so I made the last category for myself), the romance commonly found in the lyrics of classic oldies, continually spun in the background by the DJ collective, was the only sentiment that seemed to permeate the venue.

The formal set was opened with a fusion of music reminiscent of soulful hip-hop blended with hard-hitting drumbeats and guitar riffs played by Phony Ppl, conveniently also the members of Kali’s band, in an impressive set. As I made my way to the photo pit before Kali took the stage, I chatted with a couple of fans behind me. Some were underage and worried about not making their curfew, some were anxious first-time viewers and some had waited outside of the venue as early as 6:00 am to secure a spot in the front to see their favorite songstress.

As the lights began to dim, the band reemerged and the sultry songstress walked up to her floral decorated mic to begin her set. Fans cheered as Kali stunned in a glistening, silver dress, adorned with a new hair color for the special occasion stating “I’m sorry I took so long to come out, but I wanted to make sure I looked special for you all tonight.” Fluctuating between some early tracks from her mixtape Drunken Babble, her Por Vida EP tracks and some of her staple covers of Spanish classics ”Sabor A Mi” and “Suavamente,” the set list was enough to have anyone (insert all facebook official relationship options here), fall in love with the Colombian artist. A special guest, Steve Lacy, even showed up for a performance of “Only Girl” in which Kali briefly attempted to find Lacy a Valentines date for the night.

The night was encapsulated by ongoing lively enjoyment of the holiday curated by the songstress and her consistent interaction with the crowd through exchanges around date proposals from fans and dozens of roses continuously making their way to and from the stage. Even four lucky fans got to make their way onto the stage throughout the last portion of the night. One was tied to a chair as Kali performed a seductive rendition of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”, one got the chance to ask her high school sweetheart to prom (which was accepted), and two got an opportunity to sing a verse in “Ridin Round,” in which only one was successful in rapping alongside the diva. A few more songs closed out the night, with the audience singing and jolting to every word as they had done the entire show through.

Post show, the B-Side Brujas spun an afterparty that took place in The Constellation Room right outside of the larger venue. Vinyl was carefully selected as the DJs took turns curating tunes from classic oldies to hyphy bay area jams from the city they hail from. The after party continued on in the name of all forms of love until the early hours of the morning.

As I left the venue with an hour drive ahead of me, the chanting of “carne asada fries” quickly caught my attention. I began chatting with the two young people who were preparing my way too late meal. Surprisingly enough, I found out they were big Kali Uchis fans who unfortunately couldn’t manage to snag tickets before the show sold out. “We’ve always seen people after shows selling food, and we thought we lived close enough so why not see if we can enjoy the show from outside and raise some money while were at it.” It was in this moment I realized that the enthusiasm of the fans inside the concert was only one component, and that the enthusiasm of fans outside the walls can too speak volumes about an artists’ influence and their work. (Shout out to the young hustlers of Ponchis, Ponchis who you should definitely support if you’re ever hungry post show at The Observatory.)

With Kali’s next album, technically a debut, an LP set to release within this next year, the suddenly announced and sold out show was a testament to her name and her music’s’ status being anything but introductory. The young femme fatale has already broke through the music scene, revived a cultural vintage fashion with a modern twist and placed it all under her own creative control. While its safe to say we will be seeing much more of Uchis in the future, I feel the urge to say you will need to act fast to see her live as her shows are bound to sell out quicker than the time it takes for the seductress to steal your heart.


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Kali Uchis Live

Photos © Jeanette Diaz. All Rights Reserved.

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