And it feels so good

Sacramento rock giants Kai Kln reunite after a nine-year hiatus

If you lived in the Sacramento Valley during the early ’90s, chances are you’ve heard of Kai Kln. Legend has it they were the first unsigned local band to sell out the Crest Theatre’s 975-seat main theater. Vocalist and guitarist Gene Smith, guitarist Sherman Loper, bassist Scott Anderson and drummer Neil Franklin channeled powerful classic-rock bands like Nazareth and Trapeze, while managing to appeal to an alternative crowd. It seemed the band was on the verge of becoming a national sensation.

In an ironic turn that’s almost become a rock cliché, Kai Kln broke up just as the band’s stars started to align in 1994—much to the chagrin of a few thousand dedicated fans. Family responsibilities and differing priorities made it impossible to sign with one of the many labels courting them. The band sporadically played shows and recorded songs for the next four years, before lapsing into nearly a decade of silence.

Now Kai Kln is ready to reunite.

Marc Malakie, the band’s longtime manager and honorary fifth member, was largely responsible for negotiating the band’s upcoming reunion show at Harlow’s this Friday. On the phone from his home in the Bay Area, Malakie was his usual overly enthusiastic self.

“It was an exciting and interesting time for all of us back then,” he said of Kai Kln’s peak in popularity. “We were regularly contacted by record labels, which, in turn, also opened the door and gave other Sacramento bands the opportunity to be recognized, as well. The interest level grew enormously, yet, unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the end for us.”

“Our last official gig was opening for [Who bassist] John Entwistle in October ’98, so we thought a nine-year hiatus was enough,” drummer Franklin said.

Sometimes it just takes that long to get everyone on board. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in this band, it’s that nothing is for sure, except no one will ever be replaced,” Franklin said definitively.

“Except if [Black Sabbath’s] Geezer Butler were interested,” he added. “Then Scott would be fired immediately.”

Today, the band’s old CDs sell for as much as $49.99 on, and a recent sold-out show at San Francisco’s Bottom Of The Hill proved the quartet still has a ravenous fan base. So what’s the secret to writing songs people crave 10 years later?

“Writing has always been the same,” Franklin said. “Sometimes someone has a song more or less finished and we learn it, or someone has a bucketful of riffs and licks. Then we carefully place them together. Then we overanalyze it, change it, rearrange it, get pissed and break up for nine years.”

Tickets are already on sale for the band’s local reunion, scheduled for April 20 at Harlow’s. And, like any well-planned event, its organizers have an agenda. The Ricky and Del Connection, a band formed by Franklin and Smith after the dissolution of Kai Kln, will open the show as a release party for their now 2-year-old CD Stream of Unconsciousness.

“This is our best chance to be seen in front of more than our usual 10 or so fans,” Franklin said. “It seemed like a good idea because Larry Boothroyd [bassist for opening band Triclops!] and Scott both played bass on the album. They will both play with Ricky and Del, as well.”

If you can’t get to Harlow’s this Friday, you might have to wait until Kai Kln plays the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s Friday Night Concerts in the Park series at Cesar Chavez Plaza on July 13. (Later that night, the band plans to perform a special set of the members’ favorite songs, appropriately dubbed “Kai Kovers.")

“Things work a lil’ slow ’round here,” Franklin said.

Yes, they sure do. Welcome back.