As Kyle Craft kicked off his Free At Noon set Friday, the man in front of me took ten seconds to record a quick video of the Portland-based, Louisiana-bred musician. But when he went to caption the video to inform his Snapchat followers of whose music he was taking in, the man typed “Kyle Graft.” He even made the font extra large, adding further reason to suspect it wasn’t an unnoticed error — he most likely thought Craft’s name actually started with the letter G. (On the other hand, it’s pretty rad that a guy comes out to see a band he doesn’t know that well, on a Friday afternoon, just to discover new music!)
So share this minor mistake not to be a spelling stickler, but rather to point out that Craft is not a household name. Not yet at least. His first album Dolls of Highland was released in April, with much of its inspiration stemming from the unfamiliar loneliness Craft found at the end of an 8-year relationship. Quickly, Craft’s energetic, vulnerable debut has garnered some attention, and the cheers from Friday’s crowd validated that fact. When the first few notes of a song would play, approving hoots and hollers would follow. It sounded like everyone had a favorite tune included in the 9-song setlist.
You couldn’t see it too often, but behind his messy mop of blond hair was a face scrunched with passion as he belted out the stories of his past. The vocals of Dolls Of Highland are loud and unrestrained, but when experienced live they bring a new sense of understanding as to why he left his home of Shreveport, Louisiana for Oregon. Recorded in Shreveport’s Highland neighborhood, the album, Craft says, is dedicated to the girls and ghosts who have left a mark on him.
The ragtime rock ‘n’ roll of Craft and his band didn’t fade, as their strength in numbers helped them last — with six guys on stage (Craft, two keyboardists, a guitarist, a bassist, and drummer) it was a little crowded. Lively jams bookended the set, with “Pentecost” getting it started and “Eye of a Hurricane” closing out the on-air portion of the festivities. Among those heard between the two numbers were love song “Future Midcity Massacre” and what sounded like a fan favorite, “Lady of the Ark.” After the band left, Craft stayed on for one more off the air, album closer “Three Candles.” His unfiltered vocals were magnified by the solo performance, and he modestly asked the audience to forgive the “Janice Joplin howl” he had going on.
Rocking stages like he did Friday isn’t something Craft has been doing forever. Growing up, he wasn’t even a musician — it wasn’t until a random David Bowie compilation purchase at a K-Mart that he began writing songs and teaching himself how to play multiple instruments. But watching him at World Cafe Live Friday didn’t give off a sense of randomness. It felt precise and intentional. It was 45 minutes of raw talent. And with many more of those kinds of performances coming in the future, “Kyle Graft” could very well make his way to household name status.
Kyle Craft headlines Boot & Saddle Saturday, August 13th. Also playing is Mass Gothic. Tickets to the 21+ show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
Future Midcity Massacre
Dolls of Highland
Jane Beat the Reaper
Lady of the Ark
Eye of a Hurricane
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