As the sun set on a Philly swooning with the first blush of spring, lazy fingers of sunlight skimmed bared necks in the evening glow. After downing tap beers at Interstate Drafthouse, me and my posse wandered the grungy back alleys of Fishtown, woozily making our way to the Fillmore to see the King of Krule, indie’s It Boy of the moment. Brooklyn-based jazz/hip-hop ensemble Standing on the Corner was midway through their opening set as we breezed into the twilit showroom. Despite the sultry clime, SOTC’s frontman wore a black parka with the hood up, his rimless glasses flashing under pale shafts of light. He paced the stage restlessly, spitting poetry while his band member kept time on a wine bottle with a drumstick and raked wind chimes with a whimsical air.
The set break felt drawn out and tense, the room humming with nervous energy. The six-piece band that accompanies King Krule took the stage first, tension building until the man of the hour, Archy Ivan Marshall, aka England’s King Krule, stepped onstage to a chorus of frenzied screams. The ginger-haired singer, clad modestly in a beige button-up and billowy tweed trousers, gripped the mic with both hands, his gaze mournful, cheekbones brushed with shadow as he let loose his cadaverous baritone. In the spacey between-song interludes (one of these gaps was filled with the theme from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to much appreciative laughter), Archy was a dark silhouette wreathed in lavender mist, indifferent to the whoops and howls of approval from the exuberant crowd. His manner was withdrawn, between-song banter was marginal and muted, as he motored efficiently through the artfully constructed setlist. The band transitioned fluidly between disparate vibes and tones, pulling from both 6 Feet Beneath The Moon and The Ooz, which dropped last October.
The crowd elbowed and thrashed in a violent mosh pit to heavier songs like “Emergency Blimp” and “Dum Surfer,” while Archy narrated the maelstrom with a disaffected growl, chest heaving as though an invisible hand was wrenching the words from his throat. A saxophonist with a bowl haircut took long, meandering solos over the thrumming bassline. “Baby Blue” was infused with a drowsy euphoria, the audience swaying contentedly, strangers brushing shoulders. For “Biscuit Town,” Archy hunched over a red keyboard, plunking out riffs with a tripping ease. “You’re shallow waters, I’m the deep seabed / And I’m the reason you flow / I got more moons wrapped around my head and Jupiter knows,” he murmured from some watery, sunken depth.
The encore song was the long-awaited “Out Getting Ribs,” the melody hanging suspended, cymbals hushed, words gritty with a tangible hurt. “Girl I’m black and blue / so beaten down for you / well I’m beaten down in bloom,” Archy crooned, voice alien and echoing as if from the end of a long tunnel. “Don’t break away / I waste away.” The song faded, speakers crackling with static, the room plunged into a hungry, empty dark. — MARIAH HALL