Channeling The Spirits: Kalo Brings Her Blues Rock Back To Houston

Israeli-born and Oklahoma-based blues rocker Kalo will perform at The Continental Club on Friday, August 13.
Israeli-born and Oklahoma-based blues rocker Kalo will perform at The Continental Club on Friday, August 13. Photo By Paul Green
Anyone who made it out for the first annual Brooklyn Twang Festival this past May at The Continental Club is sure to remember the explosive and stand out performance of Israeli born and Oklahoma based blues rocker Kalo.

“I loved it,” says Kalo of her early summer performance. “I hope I’ll bring it again and again and I'm so happy with the new relationship with the Continental.” Kalo will be returning to burn down the indoor stage of the Continental this time, opening for Andy Macadelic on Friday, August 13 and will return again in October.

At Brooklyn Twang Fest, Kalo stood out not only for her individuality and rock and roll edge in a sea of more country style artists, but also for her ability to command attention shredding on her guitar with raw enthusiasm and fervor forever imprinting herself into the audience's mind.

“That used to be the whole point of playing around with other bands,” she says. “A little bit of competition, like stealing the crowd. It’s fun for me but I see it as a game, like racing in the Olympics.”

“I’m super excited to come to Houston. I’m trying to expand myself and really get something moving in a certain direction, not sure even what it is anymore. New crowd, new people, new energy, new musicians.”

Kalo will be performing with a new band made up of her Houston connection, Luba Dvorak, who hosted the festival and performs every Sunday with his Backyard Ramble, on guitar and Allen Hill on bass.

“I don’t have right now a consistent one band that I play with. I actually find it a little bit more freeing that I have a few people from other places just coming together playing. I missed the joy of feeling on your toes instead of everybody just knowing what you're doing and your muscles just go there.”

Kalo’s obsession with rock and roll began as a child in Israel, like most kids of previous generations, listening to the radio. She and her peers were exposed to American and European rock via a pirate radio station.

“It was a massive boat, I don't know how they did it but they just went to the deep end of the sea where they can’t be caught. I could listen to them from wherever I was in tiny Israel and it was just amazing.”

“This is kind of the excitement that I created,” she says, describing how the wild sounds affected her development as a teen. “I remember being sixteen, smoking those cigarettes, sitting on my window late at night, my parents off to bed a long time ago and there was one light outside. You turn on the radio and hear this stuff and it's just like lighting. That was magic. I just wanted to be part of that magic and that music.”

Whether playing an original song or a surprising cover like Dolly Parton’s sadly sweet “Jolene,” Kalo  channels the spirit of her heroes. She credits a series of dreams where Jimi Hendrix visited her with advice for inspiring her guitar playing style.
“It’s funny when people say to me, ‘You play like Hendrix but so different.’ That was the lesson he transferred to me, ‘Play my songs, play your songs, but play you.”

Kalo found her sound in the blues but much as the old saying goes, the blues had a baby and they named the baby rock and roll.  Kalo's playing is a prime example of blues dripping with sweat and rage pushing it to another level of intensity.

“I think for me the writing is just a vehicle for me to be playing. I have broken English and I think blues was a good clique for me to join in because the way they write songs in blues is their way. It’s a fun way to write lyrics, it doesn’t have very much grammar in it but somehow it makes sense.”

When asked if being a kid obsessed with rock and roll made her a rare occurrence in Israel Kalo describes how in fact she was not alone in her passion for rock.  She and her peers would frequent the beach playing songs around the bonfire.

“We loved music. We were very involved in music, even the ones that were not very involved. Music is a source of joy and freedom and I think in a place like Israel we would have to be rebels. We were raised to rebel our existence, if we are not going to survive this, if we are not going to be creative as Jews, Israelis, somebody is going to come to erase us from this earth so we better do something about it.”

"We were raised to rebel our existence, if we are not going to survive this, if we are not going to be creative as Jews, Israelis, somebody is going to come to erase us from this earth so we better do something about it.”

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Kalo has been in Oklahoma for the past six years and as a self-described “gypsy” she has made herself a home there as she feels she does not have much to offer in her native land of Israel.

“I was always curious about it here if I could make a living playing my guitar. Sure I started wanting to be a big rock star but rock and roll taught me different. It’s not about that at all. I think curiosity is the voice and probably the voice of peace, as much as it tortures me at times.”

The pandemic allowed her a chance to slow down and actually get some rest, which she admits she needed but also providing her with enough calm to be able to listen to herself and what she needed. She also set out to release a series of singles recorded in Tulsa with the most recent being a delightful cover of the Tears For Fears hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
“That allowed me to look at things a little differently, get stronger, trust more in God and the universe to get back to what's really important so that was good. If I’m having two weeks now with what seems to be nothing, I sit down and I practice, write and learn. I try not to freak out.”

Kalo will perform with Andy Macadelic on Friday, August 13 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main. Music starts at 9 p.m., $10-13.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes