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Kulululu Live Reviewlulu

Show Lineup: Kulululu, Alex Wilkerson, Familia 520, Deep Stay

Venue: Groundworks. Tucson, AZ

Date: 04/02/22


I spend most weekends staffing the door at all-ages venue space Groundworks, taking tickets and trying not to snag people’s arm hair as I put wristbands on them. This means that I get to watch the revolving door of talented local acts come and go every Saturday night, but often don’t get the chance to actually get in front of the stage and listen to them. But every so often, I’ll find a way to sneak away from my duties and catch an act, which I made sure to do once I heard experimental punk/art rock band Kulululu was playing the venue.

So what is Kulululu? Taken literally, they’re a band originally from Portland who moved to Tucson and promptly started carving out a space in the DIY scene, already finding an audience and associated acts. Beyond that, Kulululu is a surreal, amorphous entity. They would almost rather you think of them as a faceless superorganism than a musical group—as they announce at the opening of every show, they are Kulululu, we are Kulululu, everyone is Kulululu.

They’ve released two albums on Spotify and Bandcamp that are absolutely worth listening to (and I suggest that you do), but the band is designed for live performance. From the moment they stepped onto stage, garbed in dollar-store Phantom of the Opera masks and garish wigs, they commanded the audience’s attention. Each individual member takes on their own weird little persona and they don’t break character until the curtains drop.

This was especially entertaining to me because I got a chance to see what they were like (literally) behind the mask. The guitarist was a super friendly, personable guy who thanked all the volunteers for their time and chatted up the other acts about their influences (I overheard him namedrop Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, which can definitely be seen in Kulululu’s sound and approach to performance). On stage, he took on more of an “erratic deer in headlights” kind of demeanor, staring at the audience with wide eyes and handling his guitar with an intentional recklessness.

It was clear to me that everyone in Kulululu liked each other and was in this band for the fun of it. In between songs and spoken interludes, you could catch them smiling or laughing under the masks. They would flash a thumbs up to each other and the audience after each song finished, signaling that it was okay to clap. At one point, they sang a chaotic song about loving benches, and took turns sitting on a tiny bench they brought onstage. They’re a silly band that doesn’t want to be anything else, which is what makes them such a joy to watch.

It’s easy to get so caught up in gimmicks and stage presence that you forget to actually make good music, and I’m happy to say that isn’t the case with Kulululu. There’s a lot of punk sensibility to their music, combined with a use of spoken word and experimentation that keeps things fresh and unexpected. The content of their lyrics reminds me of experimental bands that use heavy sampling, like Land of the Loops and The Books. They can deliver a smooth, sexy saxophone lick and then immediately follow it up with a chaotic hammering of discordant noise. It’s a unique sound that’s hard to find anywhere else in the local scene.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other great local acts that performed at this show— Alex Wilkerson, Familia 520, Deep Stay. Familia 520 in particular really brought the heat with their vocals, to the point where I was transfixed on the venue door from my station by the entrance. I’d write more about each of these acts, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to them properly. Regardless, definitely follow all of them on social media and Bandcamp and keep an eye out for if they play Groundworks again. And catch Kulululu the next time they play a local show to get a taste of their strange, charming, hyper-specific vibe.

Reviewer’s Name: John Konrad

Date of Review: 04/06/2022

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