Madison’s queer community doesn’t often get a chance to convene, and LGBTQ+ individuals remain far outnumbered even in Wisconsin’s most progressive city. Thus, when genderqueer King Princess stopped at the Sylvee on their “Hold on Baby” Tour, queer individuals were offered a unique opportunity to celebrate the rock icon and their community all night long.
King Princess, also known as Mikaela Strauss, has become one of this generation’s most prominent queer icons. Their songs center around the queer experience, offering comfort and identity to millions of individuals around the world. King Princess’ new album “Hold On Baby” focuses on the struggles of living as a young queer individual in an increasingly hostile world.
The night began when King Princess’ talented opener St. Panther took the stage. St. Panther’s music is a mixture of R&B and soul. While audience members weren’t familiar with her music, they were still enchanted by St. Panther's gorgeous voice.
The audience milled around waiting for King Princess, until suddenly the lights dimmed and cheers erupted among the crowd. But King Princess didn’t grace the stage. Instead, a surprise guest, sheathed in a beautiful red dress, shocked the audience. Mrs. Gay Madison – also known as Karma Zavich – transformed the Sylvee stage, pirouetting beautifully and riling up the audience even more to see the main act they had come for. Online research showed me that King Princess always selects a local performer to perform a mini set before the show; which is an incredible way to showcase local talents.
King Princess took the stage in a simple NIKE sweatshirt and orange pants, but their plainer outfit was not symbolic for the night that lay ahead. An unbelievably carnal stage presence, King Princess started the night off with slower hit “Little Bother,” an anthem that centers on the feeling you get when you are pestering someone who used to be important to you. While the singer immersed themselves in this hit, King Princess’ stage presence shined through in more dramatic songs like “Hit the Back” and “Pussy is God,” which had the audience roaring.
King Princess wove personal anecdotes into their setlist, prefacing songs with information about themselves and their songs. While some of these anecdotes were raunchier and went along with their themes of sex positivity and sexual liberation, the queer rock icon also ventured into a more emotional tundra. King Princess disclosed to a delighted audience that their song “Crowbar” is about their dog. In a raunchy moment fans reveled in, King Princess prefaced hit song “Hit the Back” by telling fans they are a bottom. Straus revealed they came to find this out after reading serious Twitter discourse between their fans.
They maintained an unforgettable stage presence throughout the night, interacting with members of the crowd in between all of their songs. The 23-year-old also jumped down to the front row halfway through the show, which induced piercing screams from audience members close enough to touch them. A fan even threw their phone onto the stage so King Princess could take their BeReal.
These fan interactions were perfect examples of King Princess’ philosophy, which she preached throughout the night. Queer individuals understand that you cannot choose your biological family and many are cast out because of sexual orientation. Thus, LGBTQ individuals are forced to build their own communities full of accepting and loving individuals.
Many audience members attended this concert with their chosen family, and this is something King Princess emphasized throughout the course of the night. In a moment I’ll treasure forever, King Princess reached out to fans and told them they're proud of them and ecstatic to spend the night with their “chosen family.” She told the audience several times that she “f—ing loves Madison,” and the audience clearly felt the same about the singer.
King Princess, while one of this century’s queer rock icons, is only 23 years old. Their age could be seen throughout the night while King Princess hit their Juul and sipped out of a red solo cup, getting progressively drunker. Nevertheless, they performed one of the most passionate and exhilarating performances I have had the privilege of seeing, and I will never forget the night King Princess, St. Panther and Mrs. Gay Madison came to Madison.