“Believe it or not, this is my first LA show!” Kim Petras told a sold-out crowd towards the end of her set at the Troubadour last night, who roared back their approval to be in attendance at such an auspicious occasion. Well, let’s be more specific: The show sold out in just two minutes, placing Kim in the rarefied air of enormous pop stars with passionate fan bases who watch for ticket drops like they’re season finales of a Bravo reality show. Sure, this historic West Hollywood venue may only hold 400 people, but of those in attendance, every single one appeared to be fully ready to embrace their status as Kim Petras super fan; not a bad way for any pop queen to begin her reign.
And of course, by gracing the Troubadour’s stage Petras is aligning herself with a wave of stars who came before her — playing the iconic LA venue is practically a rite of passage for an artist on the rise. But I would quibble slightly with her assertion that this is her first LA show, the technicality being her opening slot for Troye Sivan during his Bloom tour last year, which stopped by the Greek Theatre right around Halloween. Petras’ costume was “bloody and slutty,” natch, but she seemed to struggle slightly with the theatre’s massive outdoor stage — which would later be filled by a two-story backdrop for Sivan’s set — and a sold-out crowd who might not have been as familiar with her music. It wasn’t a bad performance by any means, in fact, it was great, but it still left me wondering how it would feel to see her headline a room full of her own fans. Maybe that’s what she was referring to last night, too.
So who is Kim Petras? First and foremost, she’s an incredibly engaging new pop star positioned to have a huge 2019, and one with a personal connection to the queer and trans communities. After transitioning as a teenager, Petras has gone on to build an international following who eagerly await her one-off, cheeky pop songs, which recently culminated in the release of her first EP, Turn Off The Lights Vol. 1. Yes, it was Halloween-themed.
Petras’ songs are dripping in desire and delivered with a certain amount of indolence, irony, and riches-as-love theorizing, but never enough to squash their innate vulnerability. After working with massive pop producers like Dr. Luke, recently collaborating with PC Music’s Sophie, and working with the quickly-rising DJ trio Cheat Codes, she’s helping pave the way for transgender artists to focus on their art first and foremost, instead of having to rehash their politics or gender every time they’re in the spotlight.
In that sense, the show at the Troubadour was a glimpse into the world-building that Kim is capable of. Kicking off the set with one of her newest tracks, “If U Think About Me…” and an older, fan-favorite, “I Don’t Want It At All” (well, if you consider 2017 to be “older”) she showed off her penchant for pouty pop anthems that embody a willful, demanding energy, which is a welcome respite amid the recent popularity of dreary, sad-eyed pop. (Looking at you, Drake.) Of course, her songs occasionally stray into more emotional or disappointed themes, but even then, there’s a lack of self-seriousness that’s refreshing.
Petras is much more “Nice For What” than “Take Care” and the first half of her set continued in that same vein, with the sugar rush crush of “All The Time,” an ode to escapism, her Lil Aaron collab “Faded,” plus the impeccable pep of another 2017 bop, “Hillside Boys.” It was only mid-set that she really began to get into tracks off last year’s EP, with spooky minute-plus interludes “Omen” and “I Don’t Wanna Die” bookending the project’s creepiest and best song, “Close Your Eyes,” a femme fatale threat dripping in autotune and leaning hard into an unforgettable earworm chorus.
Though she was more than halfway through her hour-long set at this point, it felt like Petras herself was just getting warmed up, ready to finally let loose and trust the crowd who had come out to see her. She continued strutting back and forth across the Troubadour’s stage, but jumped up on a speaker to sing closer to the crowd, even borrowing a joint, taking a hit, and kindly handing it back to the purveyor before leaping back to the main stage. Then, she was ready to get into “1, 2, 3, Dayz Up,” her brand new collab with PC Music’s Sophie, whose sparkling, ironic production and nostalgia-laced jitters are the perfect pairing for Petras’ own tongue-in-cheek hedonism.
Then came the best song of the night. Considering this was the website that premiered the song’s playfully surreal video, it should come as no surprise that “Heart To Break” has become a favorite around here. I love the vulnerability, the campy ’80s production, the way Kim belts out the chorus — and it’s a crowd-pleaser for sure. Singing the lyrics that I’ve hummed to myself in the car with a couple hundred other people who were equally intent on hitting those high notes was definitely the highlight of the night, even if the flagrant, arrogant boom of “Can’t Do Better” came right after is almost as satisfying. But it never gets quite as visceral as the former track.
Finishing up the night by paying homage to Charli XCX — who included Kim on her groundbreaking late 2017 mixtape Pop 2 on their collab “Unlock It” — Petras did the song justice on her own, proving, at her first official LA show, that she’s ready to let this Los Angeles into her world. And if she’s giving us her heart to break, the least we can do is fall in love with her, too.