Kicking Giant, the duo born from Olympia’s bountiful underground rock community in the ‘90s, reemerged this past weekend for a rare, much-anticipated run of shows in the Northwest. There was no special occasion attached to these gigs, booked as they were to coincide with guitarist-vocalist Tae Won Yu’s return to the region from New York to give a lecture in Seattle about his graphic design work. But the excitement surrounding the band’s Friday night appearance at the Lollipop Shoppe was enough to pack the intimate bar with fellow musicians (including both members of Quasi, Jason Traeger, and Rose City Band’s Ripley Johnson) and fans alike.
The beauty of Kicking Giant’s set was how quickly it erased the three decades separating the band’s inception from today. Yu and drummer-vocalist Rachel Carns still played with a shaggy enthusiasm that veered occasionally into discord. Their music pulls from the same punk and garage-rock sources that fed the Cramps, but uses it to express more starry-eyed feelings of romantic yearning.
“We’re a little rough around the edges,” Yu said at one point. His admission barely registered with anyone in the room. They were too far gone, losing themselves in the sugary rush of “Satellite” or fighting back tears as the band leaned into the willowy psych-pop pleas found in “She’s Real.” Even more affecting was Yu’s heartfelt expressions toward everyone in attendance and his onstage partner. “We just love playing together,” he said, dreamily. That truly went without saying, given the heartfelt smiles he and Carns shared during their set and the long hug they gave each other at the end. Their bond remains strong, even at a time when they live nearly 3,000 miles apart.