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Mace and Crown | May 20, 2018

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K. Flay and Paper Route Dominate The NorVa

Lindsey Lanham
Staff Writer

A strange mix of eyeliner-wearing, emo high schoolers, drunk college students and determined elders made their way to The NorVa Thursday night. Though all were of varying ages and attitudes, they were there with one goal in mind: to see one kick-ass concert.

K. Flay made her debut appearance at The NorVa on Feb. 23. She jumped around on stage and headbanged as she sang songs new and old. Even with the diverse crowd, everyone was a fan and knew the words by heart.

Before K. Flay performed, she sat down for a pre-show interview. Donning a red sweatshirt and chipped black nail polish, she talked politics and music.

Kristine Flaherty, better known by her stage name K. Flay, started recording music in 2009. Inspired by artists like M.I.A., her rap and R&B sound has matured and grown over the years.

Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons, recently signed K. Flay as the first artist to his new label, Night Street Records.

“Essentially I had been working on songs for what I anticipated to be an independent release. Dan heard them and essentially reached out to me,” she said. “For me, having the support and infrastructure from a major label and also some of the protection that comes from having Dan involved, there’s more autonomy.”

The K. Flay fanbase is nothing if not dedicated. She performed songs released four or five years ago that never made it to mainstream radio and remained underground hits. She alternated between those and newer hit singles, such as, “Blood in the Cut,” which she admitted was her favorite song to play live.

K. Flay doesn’t ask, but demands attention on stage. She walks into a room and heads turn. It’s not just the confident attitude, though – she so clearly enjoys what she does. It’s evident through the way she smiles on stage and how graciously she acts with her fans.

K. Flay has always been connected with her fans. Her songs are empathetic in nature. Her unique ability to remain aggressive and independent in her music has inspired many to be true to themselves. One thing K. Flay has done on her tour is keep a “Crush Me” book at the merch booth. The book is there for fans to write down whatever has “crushed them” for only K. Flay to read.

“I had the idea to do it. We just went on Etsy and got these books made,” K. Flay explained. “People have been writing beautiful, crazy, really sad, really drunk, just everything. It’s not unique to post s— on Instagram. It is kind of unique to write something down not only for yourself, as like a physical thing, but a physical thing you’re never going to see again. And it’s something that somebody else is going to read.”

Working with artists like Reynolds and JT Daly, lead singer of Paper Route, K. Flay is about to release her new album, “Every Where is Some Where.” The singer has already dropped one new single, “Black Wave.” An unforgiving, dynamic track with lines such as, “I swear to God, you don’t wanna test me,” make it apparent that K. Flay has no time for anyone’s nonsense anymore.

“Black Wave” was a hit with the crowd. The track was released less than a month ago, but the audience still knew all the words. It was easily the most enjoyable performance of the night. Even though it is the only song to be released so far, K. Flay is excited for the rest. She said that her favorite track off the album is “The President Has a Sex Tape.”

The inevitable political discussion made it apparent that K. Flay has no time for discrimination.

“I will say for your generation, you have to empower people to vote and be a part of the process. Especially in these midterm elections,” she said. “I know people my age who are politically disengaged and I’m like, ‘what the f— are you doing?’”

 K. Flay played some songs off of “Every Where is Some Where,” such as “High Enough” and “The President Has a Sex Tape.” She also played the hit single “FML.” Each song had the crowd cheering, clapping and made for a genuinely enjoyable set. Afterwards, K. Flay even stayed back to meet fans.

Equally as talented, rockers Paper Route warmed up the crowd before K. Flay’s performance. The band just put out their third full-length album, “Real Emotion,” in Sept. 2016. Wearing a denim jacket embroidered with a cat and his initials, Daly put on a buoyant performance alternating between the tambourine, guitar and drums.

“This is a great tour because everyone gets along very well,” Daly said in a phone interview the day before the show. “Tours are a tricky thing. It’s like a family reunion for a month.” Daly worked with K. Flay on her new album after they met through a friend of a friend and started recording together for fun.

“We’ve never been in this city before. I know, I know, it’s embarrassing,” Daly laughed on stage. His carefree attitude contrasted their serious, and at times downright emotionally painful, music.

Paper Route was first established in 2004. Made up of Daly, Chad Howat (bass guitar) and Nick Aranda (lead guitar), the band had to reinvent themselves a couple of times after losing members.

“Change is inventible,” Daly said. “In this instance, Chad and I were always the band and that’s always stayed consistent. There has been a revolving cast around us. That’s impacted the way we performed things live and as human beings.”

Howat was out sick and the bassist for K. Flay, Josh Lippi, filled in for him. That didn’t hold the band back, though, and they even offered their albums at half price to compensate for the missing member.

 Aranda didn’t join the band until 2015. “Our guitar player [Aranda] just brought such a positive energy to the band and it wasn’t something we were familiar with,” Daly explained. He said that the new addition provided a healthier atmosphere to the band. “It was fascinating to see when you get healthy in some ways, whether it be mental health or band health, you can get darker. Because you can get there without taking any casualties.”

 The band’s most recent release, “Real Emotion,” may just be their best yet. It’s lyrically and musically complex and entertaining. Daly admitted that the title track was one of the songs he’s proudest of.

“Lyrically and musically, it’s the combination of everything Paper Route has ever been.”

Paper Route played an energetic set complete with Daly playing drums and dancing in the crowd. Having never played in Norfolk before, the band made themselves at home. “Are We All Forgotten” had the crowd dancing and cheering along.

Paper Route ended the show with their new hit “Chariots.” It was the crowd favorite, but Daly said that his favorite song to perform was “Untitled.”

“I’m still learning from it. You need to let go some with art, and you hope you come back and learn something,” Daly explained.

Being their first time at The NorVa, neither Paper Route nor K. Flay held anything back. Talent is obvious when the bands can appeal to such a wide variety of people. Giving the chance for fans to meet both bands at the end of the night also shows just how thankful these artists are.

As a self-proclaimed veteran concert-goer, there was something relieving about seeing a group of artists so thankful for their fanbase. Both Paper Route and K. Flay clearly love what they do. We just hope that they loved Norfolk as much as Norfolk loved them.