“Is that Summer or Strummer?”
“Eh, you know, whatever…”
Kai Summer is immensely young, and the heavy overcoat he wears — down to his ankles, collar turned up to his ears — does nothing to hide this. It accentuates his slender frame, skinny like the loosely knotted tie he sometimes wears. His ragged boots swallow his feet whole. You could drop him into a Chicago winter and he’d vanish like he was just another bad poet with too much pride to work retail and not enough time to live.
I’ve never seen him without the overcoat off stage.
On stage, though, he’s someone else. He doesn’t get any bigger, but he uses his guitar to carve electric lines through the air in minor keys that owe more to madness than to music. If you squint just a little you can see a shimmering field of music around him like an aura of sound. I’ve noticed that people playing with him don’t get too close. I can’t blame them; I’d worry about getting sliced in two by a stray power chord.
It is trivial to say that he is the best guitarist of his generation because at the ripe old age of 17, he is the first guitarist of his generation. Perhaps in the end, if Mother doesn’t have her way, he will be known merely as the man who found the possibilities. Perhaps someone else will be the man who developed them.
But I wouldn’t bet on it.
He is playing tonight at the Broken Metronome. He told me the other week that he hopes to jam with Mary Pagan someday. It’s the first personal confidence I’ve ever heard from him. Mary? Are you out there? Can you hear me? This critic thinks you should make Kai’s dream come true.
From Lester Shots’ “Beating the Minutes” column in the ChicaGO alternative wheneverwecan.
Kai Summer — Starchild Guitarist
Starchild (17): Illegal Alien, Mothership Connection, Darkstar Connection (13)
Abilities (17): Play Guitar (27), Write Music (20), Sing (13), Rock History, Repair Instruments, Drink
Traits (17): Arrogant, Artistic, Driven, Moody, Self-Destructive
Gear (17): Guitar
Passions (17): Let the guitar do the talking; Avoid, avoid the grasping hands, Pay homage to the masters
Relationship (17): Protege of Lester Shots, music critic
Skills (13): Theramin (15), Beautiful man-child, Kick ‘em in the balls, Fiddle with the amps (15), Vincent Black Lightning
Glamours (17): 64th Note Mastery (20), Raining Notes Like Tears of Heaven, The Minor Key, Subterranean Homesick Riff, Wall of Sound
Last week, the Darkstar started jamming his Mothership transmissions. He can get some of the connection back, but only if he plays his very darkest most angstful heartrending songs on stage. Bringing the audience down brings the connection back up. Which reinforces the angst, because the Mothership gets so upset about what he’s been doing.
“Avoid, avoid the grasping hands” is a negative passion. Kai dislikes getting too close to people (and yet does it anyhow, because he’s drawn inexorably to music and good musicians).
“Raining Notes Like Tears of Heaven” and “Subterranean Homesick Riff” possibly overlap; I see them both as a certain degree of emotional influence over those who hear him play. Although actually, the former is more letting the emotions of the audience drive his skill and the latter is more imposing emotions on the audience.
“The Minor Key” is a pun. He’s good with doors.
“Wall of Sound” is literal; it’s a defensive prana.
“Vincent Black Lightning” is a kind of motorcycle, for the record. In case anyone was unclear on where I was stealing this concept from.