A month before I officially became a freshman in college, "TiK ToK" dropped. I remember listening to that Kesha track and thinking how effortlessly she embodied the cool party girl I wanted to be—relaxed, confident, interesting. It took me a few years before I became the reason the party started, but I got there eventually.
Kesha Rose Sebert, better known then as Ke$ha, was a staple of almost every freshman and frat house's pregame playlist. She inspired a lot of themed parties. I'm guilty of having one of my own, appropriately called Kat$ and Ke$ha, where attendees had to be either a cat or Kesha. It was a weird time. She brought, and continues to bring, the happiest, most positive mood to whatever venue her music happens to bless and tonight is no exception. Performing for 800 fans at the Warsaw in Brooklyn for her Fuck the World Tour, this venue is a far cry from the stadiums she headlined back in 2012. But she's been out of the game, locked in a legal battle with former mentor and producer Dr. Luke—the twists and turns of which have been well documented—but throughout the ongoing, arduous process, the goodwill towards Kesha from her fans has been unwavering.
Before appearing on stage, Queen's "We Will Rock You" plays in the background, setting the tone for the upcoming set: Kesha is here to win, to prove to any hater (although you'd be hard-pressed to find any here) that she can't be scared away, squashed, or silenced.
All photos by Guy Eppel
She enters the room and kicks off the set with "We R Who We R," outfitted in a black leather bodysuit adorned with bright red roses and fringe, the letters "F T W" patched on her ass. Her band, The Creepies, play a hard rock version of the song as Kesha serpentines her way back and forth across the stage, the words "Fuck the World" lighting up behind her in country-western lettering. One member of her crew runs across the stage waving an American flag decorated in Pride colors, as streamers burst from the ceiling.
I've never been to a show where I incur hearing loss due to fans' screams, but then, Kesha is no ordinary performer. Up on this stage, "We R Who We R" drops its fast-paced pop beat and morphs into rock; "Dinosaur" becomes an 80s synth-pop jam, and "Blow" goes from club hit to a spooky, seductive new wave that could've easily been sung by Lorde or Siouxsie and the Banshees. In between songs, Kesha speaks openly about her ongoing lawsuit with Dr. Luke as the crowd chant "Fuck him."
"Thank you for standing beside me, thank you for standing outside that courtroom," she says as the audience erupts. "Thank you for the support and thank you for being here tonight. I think some people were thinking I would just sit around, waiting to die. That somebody fucked with the wrong woman."
"No one fucking owns your happiness," she shouts at the crowd in between covering Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing" and "Til the World Ends," a song she initially wrote for Britney Spears. Clutching the microphone like a life raft, Kesha announces she'll indulge the crowd with a few fan requests which turn out to be "Boots & Boys" and "Cannibal," replete with all-band choreography.
Though the venue is packed, this gathering feels intimate, like she's singing to me and me alone. And then she closed with "TiK ToK," of course, glittering ticker tape exploding from all sides. "This is our last song," she says as the band begins to play, "But before we go I just want to tell you I am so grateful for every person here tonight."
Psyke. It's not the last song. After a quick costume change she returns to her throne to play a country-fried version of her song with Pitbull, "Timber," followed by a cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," rounding off the night with the none to subtle cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." (She's currently still unable to release new music of her own because of her pending lawsuits). "No matter what you're going through, always have hope in your heart," she tells the crowd before singing like it's the last time she'll ever sing.
Kesha's set clocks in at around an hour, but she could perform all night and we'd never leave. The show was one giant collective "fuck you" to Sony and Dr. Luke and to anyone who ever doubted that she, or anyone in the audience, could make it. This was a glitter-dazzled reminder that Kesha will be here as long as we are.
Annalise Domenighini is still covered in glitter. Follow her on Twitter.