Kero Kero Bonito is on a hot streak. The British indie-pop trio has spent the last year radiating big suburban energy with the nostalgic Time ‘N’ Place, and has since widened their sights with Civilisation I, dropping right before their North American tour. If Bonito Generation was a celebration of inner childhood cheer and Time ‘N’ Place was a reflection of early-adulthood melancholy, Civilisation I is a grimdark mourning of society’s imminent implosion. I can think of no better tunes to get down to in Detroit than KKB’s new über-doomer anthems.
It’s the night of Oct. 16, and I stroll into the Magic Stick with my concert companion. For some reason venue security is not taking shit from nobody tonight. The box office is past the security check, so I get big X’s magic marker’d onto both my under-21 hands and get badgered for my camera bag before finally getting a press ticket and entering the venue.
The concert opens with a performance from Negative Gemini. She’s only got 30,000 monthly listeners on Spotify but the crowd is dancing like she’s got 30 million. This is a testament to the loveliness of her groovy electropop. It’s genuinely dreamy and I contemplate getting some of her merch (it looks pretty cool).
Between performances, I nervously inch my way through the tightly packed crowd, hoping to get a picture when the band comes on. But I’m shy and I’m nervous and this is my first time trying photo coverage so I stop before getting to the front row. I don’t want to take space from the superfans who probably lined up long before the doors opened to secure their spots. A group watches me fumble with my camera, trying to find a good angle between the shoulders of two people much taller than myself, before motioning for me to fill in between them. They are all full of smiles and encouragement for my concert coverage as the band takes the stage.
In addition to their core members — Sarah Bonito on vocals, Gus Lobban on keys and Jamie Bulled on bass — guitarist James Rowland and drummer Jennie Walton join the band’s live performances. Except for Sarah, the band enters the stage to a steady roar. 30 seconds later, Sarah saunters in to the tune of hundreds of screaming fans. It suddenly occurs to me that I forgot earplugs. I think I need them more for the screaming than the music.
The show opens with the foreboding bopper “Battlelines” and the world is indeed ending, so we have every reason to get down. At any given moment there is also good reason to scream, cry, laugh or all three at once. Sarah holds a stuffed flamingo as she raps “Flamingo,” waving it tauntingly over the crowd. Another stuffed animal graces the stage, this time a crocodile during “Pocket Crocodile.” Gus, rocking a Bob Evans baseball cap, is full of goofy quips and banter. “This one’s dedicated to the Detroit People Mover,” he says before one song. Sarah enlists the crowd to sing happy birthday to Jennie. A fan’s phone ends up on stage, and the band responds by taking a crowd selfie with it. There’s one thing I witness that makes my life complete: Gus and Sarah perform the iconic voicemail interlude from “Break,” complete with a pink prop telephone.
At this point, I think nothing could make my heart more full. Then Sarah calls for a joint performance by the “KKB and Detroit choir” to do a heartfelt singalong to “Sometimes.” As she stands over the crowd with her baton, a cluster of devout fans (myself included) cram beneath her waving arms, belting every last lyric. Jamie even dances a jolly jig onstage. I don’t notice it at first — I can’t see it behind the outstretched arms of a group of fans recording the scene — but I witness Jamie’s goofiness through the cameras of their raised phones. My heart overflows.
Much of the band’s charm comes from the glossy twinkles and chimes peppered throughout their production that are difficult to replicate live, but this does not stop KKB. The band is as faithful as could be to their quirky sample-filled sound. They even recreate the cacophonous noise breakdown of “Only Acting.” It speaks to their creativity and the strength of their relationships with their instruments.
The band gives their goodbyes after “Picture This,” but Detroit would not walk away without hearing their favorite song. When the chants begin — “TRAMPOLINE! TRAMPOLINE! TRAMPOLINE!” — they will not stop until the band returns. Sure enough, they waltz back onstage and blast into a cover of U2’s “Vertigo.” In a cute homage to Detroit, James plays the opening to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on guitar. Finally, “Trampoline” begins, and the floor of the venue flexes to an alarming degree as the crowd bounces, but I cannot stop jumping and jumping and jumping.
All my energy has been jumped out of me. I walk out of the venue into rainy weather and a $45 parking ticket, but no amount of rain (or financial misfortune) can drown the joy and elation that is post-KKB-concert bliss. Kero Kero Bonito just made a goddamn bounce house out of Detroit, and I am humbled by their wholesomeness. My co-concert goer and I scroll through pictures in the car. Most of them are ones she took of me shedding tears during the “Sometimes” singalong. Come back soon, KKB, I think to myself. Come back soon.