he room was packed for the sold-out King Princess show at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre in February 2020. This 21-year-old Brooklyn raised artist has been steadily gaining popularity over the years, successfully cementing herself as a stand-out figure in modern pop and alternative music. Straus's live performances captivate her audience from beginning to end, teasing the crowd with song titles and evoking audience participation with random questions and chants. The best part about a King Princess show isn’t just the show itself but the audience. There were tons of funky outfits in the crowd including a sparkly silver jumpsuit, glitter eye-shadow and a pink feathered cowboy hat just to name a few. Along with the fun outfits, there was a general feeling of sexual freedom and expression that was present throughout the night. Straus describes herself as gender-queer/gay and many of her songs have themes of queer relationships which has cultivated  a sizable audience of young LGBTQ+ fans. This King Princess show gave these fans a space to feel safe and accepted, if only for just a few hours.  It’s clear that King Princess’ IDGAF attitude resonates with her audience and inspires other people to be whatever they want to be whenever they want to be it. 

The nights opener, Kilo Kish, walked out on stage about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule which caught everybody by surprise. The surprises didn’t there as she effortlessly maintained the audience's attention with her sweeping vocals and thumping beats. Her sultry dance moves and intergalactic themed wardrobe choice gave off an alien quality that was both haunting and beautiful. After Kilo Kish, a local drag artist who went by the name of “Irregular Girl” was introduced to perform a short lip-sync number. Her set was no more than five minutes long but had the entire audience cheering. It wasn’t long after that King Princess took to the stage. 

Wearing a Bulls jersey and a pleated black skirt over black pants, King Princess strolled onto the stage and strutted down the constructed staircase with a confident swagger that evoked an entire era of rock-and-roll. King Princess, otherwise known as Mikaela Mullaney Straus, is quite talented for only being 21. Raised by a sound engineer father, she was surrounded by music her entire life and gained inspiration from artists like Led Zeppelin and Jack White. Straus is currently on tour supporting her first full length album, Cheap Queen, which came out in 2019. She performed many new tracks from the album as well as songs like “1950” and “Talia”.

Straus’ songs sound completely different live. Her catchy songs are recorded in a very pop electronica style but when  performed they evoke a sort of rawness and heaviness that isn’t available in the recordings. It’s a combination of her stage antics (she really knows how to work a stage) and her surprising guitar skills that add an edginess to her live performance that is somewhat lacking on the records. She also incorporated other segments of instrumentation like extended bass solos and numbers played on a small upright piano, both of which are not often seen during your typical pop show. 

As the set was coming to an end and Straus teased her audience one last time into singing another song, it was clear that she was loving the performance. She is equal parts raunchy and sweet with a sound that proves she is unashamed of who she is, how she presents herself or how others see her. Seeing King Princess live gives a whole new meaning to the world “royalty.” 

Photos by
Erin Dickson