Kate Nash

Sonos Studio


“Life is too short to be with dickheads,” Kate Nash advised a roomful of several hundred fans last night at Sonos Studio, a gallery-cum-performance space on La Brea. The British singer was talking about the recent death of one of her close friends and former backup singers, and how that tragic event inspired her to focus on the things that really matter. She also could have been referring to the intense changes in her own music.

Just a few years ago, Nash was a young and precociously talented singer with a quick, sarcastic wit and an ear for poppy melodies, but she has since reinvented herself as a harder rocking and more socially provocative performer, culminating in her latest album, Girl Talk, where she's penned the kind of fiery and energetic riot grrl anthems that everyone wishes Kathleen Hanna and Courtney Love were still writing.

See also: Kate Nash: Whipping Girl

Last night, instead of playing her traditional keyboards, Nash showed up onstage pounding on a bass guitar with a large Fidlar sticker, before switching to electric guitar for much of her hourlong set. She lived up to the title of her new album by merrily discussing a wide range of topics, from the local weather (“It's hot in here!”) and the inspiration for her songs to the general state of the music industry. Defying sexist roles and expectations is one of the key themes on Girl Talk, and Nash spent much of her time between songs urging her worshipful and largely female fans to start their own bands as the best way to right the imbalances in the war between the sexes.

She pointed out that only 14 percent of overall publishing royalties currently goes to women songwriters and insisted that more women need to pick up guitars and stop worrying about their images and body types.

“Kim Kardashian isn't fat — she's pregnant!,” she railed, commenting on the media's double standards about beauty.

Nash warned that the media can be anything but supportive — and then jokingly added that she realized that about half of those in attendance at this showcase were probably music critics. Still, rather than coming off as preachy, the 25-year-old singer leavened her sisterly advice with a dollop of good humor and plenty of salty language (the word “bitch” came up a lot).

See also: U.K. Pop Sensation Kate Nash Redefines the C-Word @ El Rey

Despite complaining that even she has been criticized by the press for supposedly being fat, Nash looked great last night, decked out in a billowing, semi-sheer gray dress, her black pigtails bouncing wildly around as she pogoed onstage and banged her head during the harder-rocking tunes. She was deftly backed by three women — bassist/guitarist Emma Hughes, lead guitarist Linda Buratto and drummer Fern Ford — who were each wearing matching black tights and black-&-white polka-dot dresses. They were versatile enough to handle Nash's daintier early pop songs while also cranking it up on the louder and faster punk and grunge-influenced new tracks from Girl Talk.

Before kicking into the obscurity “Model Behaviour,” which was one of the first hints a few years back about the angry punk rocker hiding beneath Nash's demure pop-princess exterior, the singer explained in ruthlessly unsparing terms where she got the idea for the song. Apparently she was stuck in a long queue in a trendy London nightclub, waiting to use the bathroom, only to realize that the stalls were being hogged up by anorexic, coke-sniffing fashion models. She was further distressed to see these vapid characters out on the dance floor, airily prancing about to Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” of all things.

It's probably not a good idea to make Nash wait so long in a public place or mock the music of her idols — “Model Behaviour” is one of the cattiest and most hilariously eviscerating punk anthems in recent memory, with the singer proffering such friendly suggestions as “You don't have to suck dick to succeed” and “You're just a bitch … who forgot to eat!”

After blasting through the uptempo punk-pop songs from Girl Talk, such as “Fri-end?” and “3 AM,” she and the band occasionally downshifted into sweeter interludes, unplugging themselves for the acoustic idyll “You're So Cool, I'm So Freaky.” Perhaps the most charming moment of all came when Nash returned for the encore by herself. After shushing people who were talking loudly by the side of the stage, Nash took a deep breath and sang a pretty a cappella ballad, cooing gently and breathily, her voice trailing off lightly, leaving long spaces of silence between her reverential phrases. Even when she wasn't talking, Kate Nash was still saying a lot.

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