I'm missing Machine Gun Kelly, but let my loss be your gain

click to enlarge Pictured: Machine Gun Kelly, tattooed pop punker. 
Not pictured: Machine Gun Kelly, Prohibition gangster. - CHRIS VILLA PHOTO
Chris Villa photo
Pictured: Machine Gun Kelly, tattooed pop punker. Not pictured: Machine Gun Kelly, Prohibition gangster.

Back in early summer, my spouse casually mentioned that Machine Gun Kelly would be coming to Spokane in October. And I, with a boost of confidence from the early summer sun, the fresh evening air yet to be saturated with smoke, and the optimism that lower COVID numbers brought, said something hopeful and pure back to him like, "Really? Should we go?" Because MGK's single "My Ex's Best Friend" is by all definitions a bop, and I'd love to hear it live and enjoy some honest-to-goodness entertainment for the first time since shutdown.

Well, dear reader, as it turns out, we aren't ready. Early-summer-me was so young and naive, I look back at her like, "Aw, isn't that sweet? She thought she'd make it to a concert. In October. How cute."

I wish we were ready though, I really do. I wish my husband and I had enough foresight to buy tickets and secure a babysitter, and that we weren't distracted by the bouts of COVID my kids and I had shortly after that conversation, or that we weren't now stumbling through jarring back-to-school schedule changes and shaky new routines. I don't doubt that there are a number of other people — those of you who got tickets before it sold out because you weren't lying on your couch, half-conscious — who have been looking forward to this show with bright, clear eyes for a while now. I'm genuinely happy for you.

While I've come to terms with sitting this one out, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this concert is one of the few that we were both excited about the prospect of attending. We both like Machine Gun Kelly, which is a rare thing for us when it comes to music. Our kids even know some of his songs, and our 4-year-old refers to "Forget Me Too" as "that breakup song."

While they know his music, they do not know his name because they're still young enough that the concept of a stage name will take some explaining. Admittedly, I did not know the origin of Machine Gun Kelly's name until recently. Did you know that his name isn't actually Kelly, or Machine, or even Gun? It's Colson Baker, which, if you ask me, is a reasonably cool name that could have worked for a career in music, but probably country. And since MGK has yet to release anything twangy, it seems like the stage name was probably a good decision.

Also, MGK is not even the first Machine Gun Kelly. That honor goes to a Prohibition-era gangster in the literal sense who earned the moniker by doing gangster-y, criminal things. Apparently lots of people already knew that fact, because when my husband found out I didn't, he looked at me like, "Aw, isn't that sweet? She didn't know there was a real Machine Gun Kelly who broke many laws nearly a century ago. How cute." It just goes to show that I need to read up more on the origins of current chart-topping musician stage names, and I am sorely lacking in my Prohibition-era gangster trivia. I guess I know what I'm doing while the rest of you are at the concert Tuesday.

In the meantime, I'm reminded there are many singers out there, hiding in plain sight, with stage names that possess equally deep roots that may not be familiar to some of us. And since I have time because, as we covered, I'm still in a state of semi-hibernation post-COVID, and the Inlander has graciously given me a space, I've put together a list of some of my favorite stage names, and song recommendations to build a playlist for Tuesday for anyone else who's not going to MGK (or for anyone who is and just wants something to cleanse the palate on the way to or from the show).

THE WEEKND
REAL NAME: ABEL MAKKONEN TESFAYE

According to a 2013 AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on Reddit, The Weeknd felt that the stage name just "sounded cool." And, he dropped the last "e" since a band already existed with the full word. Seems fitting, since most weekends feel inexplicably shortened anyway.

Recommended song: "Starboy"

LADY GAGA
REAL NAME: STEFANI JOANNE ANGELINA GERMANOTTA

The lore is that "gaga" is inspired by Queen's "Radio Gaga" and "lady" was added as a contrast to it. Although, depending on which source (and which side) you read, there is discrepancy over how involved her then-producer was in coming up with the name.

Recommended song: "The Cure"

BRUNO MARS
REAL NAME: PETER GENE HERNANDEZ

I don't know why it never occurred to me that someone in the 21st century might not actually be named "Bruno Mars," but life is funny like that. "Bruno" is a childhood nickname that turned into something more, with "Mars" added as a tongue-in-cheek reference to how out of this world he is.

Recommended song: "Just The Way You Are"

LORDE
REAL NAME: ELLA MARIJA LANI YELICH-O'CONNOR

I love the simplicity and ferocity behind this one. The idea of a "lord" evoking regality and nobility, and then adding an "e" to make it feminine. Fitting that the name of her first single was indeed "Royals."

Recommended song: "Royals," of course

click to enlarge Shhh! Don't call Lizzo “Melissa.”
Shhh! Don't call Lizzo “Melissa.”

LIZZO
REAL NAME: MELISSA VIVIANE JEFFERSON

Not unlike Bruno Mars, Lizzo is a childhood nickname that stuck. I just took a DNA test and turns out, I'm 100 percent behind it.

Recommended song: "Good as Hell"

THE KID LAROI
REAL NAME: CHARLTON KENNETH JEFFREY HOWARD

If you've been on the internet at all this year, you're probably familiar with The Kid Laroi, indeed young at 18 years old. But what about the second half of his stage name? Laroi is a reference to the Kamilaroi people, and the Aboriginal Australian heritage on his mom's side.

Recommended song: "Stay" (with Justin Bieber)

LIL NAS X
REAL NAME: MONTERO LAMAR HILL

Each part of his name has a separate origin story, with Lil serving as a callout to the popular name choice among other rappers, Nas as part of an already-existing internet alias, and X in reference to the Roman numeral for 10, and how he predicted a career for himself lasting at least a decade.

Recommended song: "Industry Baby"

DOJA CAT
REAL NAME: AMALA RATNA ZANDILE DLAMINI

She likes weeds and cats, and straightforwardness, it seems. If only we all had the luxury of going by our favorite things (I'd be Lip Balm Bunny).

Recommended song: "Kiss Me More" ♦

Machine Gun Kelly with jxdn, carolinesdaughter • Tue, Oct. 12 at 6:30 pm • $45+ • Spokane Pavilion • 574 N. Howard St. • spokanepavilion.com • 888-929-7849

Inland Northwest Opera: Orpheus and Eurydice @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Fri., Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 31, 3 p.m.
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