LIVE: Okay Kaya @ SET Dalston, London

Jagjaguwar's newest talent opens up to Hackney's intimate crowd
Posted: 9 March 2020 Words: Sam Barker
On the 4th of March, in a tiny room reached by way of the smallest bar in Hackney, what Okay Kaya brought to SET Dalston was a performance that was nothing less than spectacularly beautiful, albeit incredibly short.

Opening up the whole affair was Sarah Meth, with songs that lounged back and floated dreamily about. Her sensationally powerful voice brought to mind a rough-around-the-edges Molly Burch, equally comfortable opening up and reaching up high, as well as keeping it hushed. What was particularly delightful about the whole performance, aside from the vocals, was the dynamic musical performance. With little to no compression on the lead guitar parts, the building arpeggios and barely plucked chords were given more space to breathe alongside more emotionally charged passages.

For Okay Kaya’s performance, the best comparison would be to Keaton Henson; songs felt, at times, painfully pulled out of Kaya Wilkinson's body. Her vocals were murmured, almost whispered into the microphone, yet there was still a huge emotional power to them. Even though Kaya was playing an electric guitar, accompanied by a trumpeter, the whole affair resembled an incredibly intimate acoustic gig. All of the production was stripped from the songs, the only percussion was the audible tapping of Kaya’s feet keeping time. The songs were left bare. They were handed over to the audience in a gorgeously tranquil and still way. It felt friendly and safe, like everyone was there together, a casual affair.

At times Kaya would pull faces as they played, seeming to hope to land on the right chord and smiling hugely when they did, laughing out loud when they didn’t before correcting quickly. It was inclusive, with little distance between crowd and performance. She'd crack disparaging jokes in between tracks, asking for advice and opinions – at one point she asked if the venue for her upcoming gig (May 13th at Hoxton Hall) was any good. A level of trust between audience and artist developed. Seeming tired or jet-lagged, perhaps even just overwhelmed (Okay Kaya have since cancelled a handful of upcoming show dates due to being unwell), Wilkinson disappeared inside her songs, breaking hearts ever so quietly.

With the average song length running just over two minutes (punk songs that replaced the grit and anger with emotion and openness), it was all over far too soon. The crowd filtered out satisfied, but certainly able to deal with - even wanting to deal with - being wrung out just a little more over a few more songs.

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