Blonde Redhead, with School of Seven Bells.
The Blue Note
Better than: Getting trampled by a horse.
Review and pics by Richard Gintowt
If I were a sumo wrestler, I’d probably listen to Blonde Redhead to get me psyched up for a match. There’s something sinister about the trio’s music. Very few of their songs are memorable in a hum-them-while-you-kick-ass-on-the-elliptical kind of way, but there’s some secret ingredient that’s mighty seductive.
That elixir inspired a couple friends of mine to drive all the way to The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri, last night, and having already experienced Wayne Coyne’s Big Top numerous times, I figured I’d hop along.
Opener School of Seven Bells reminded me how fussy I am with rock bands that employ laptops instead of drummers. Call me old-fashioned, but the whole visual of swinging sticks always seems to trump that funny little dance that hipsters do when they “play” a laptop (rocking back and forth while intently staring at the screen). The ensemble’s two harmonizing female vocalists (Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On! Air! Library!) kept things moving, but it felt like an uphill battle amid the clutter of sequenced backing tracks.
Minutes after School of Seven Bells exited, Blonde Redhead was milling about the stage tuning guitars and setting up their giant plastic horse prop (horses have been a theme with the band since singer Kazu Makino recovered from being trampled by one). I like groups that exhibit that kind of interest in their stageplot – it makes them seem more humble and invested in their performance.
Aside from guitarist Amedeo Pace’s explanation for stopping in the middle of a song (“Sorry, we fucked it up”), none of the three band members spoke a word all night. Fortunately, the absorbing performance spoke for itself. Simone Pace is a tasteful hot dog of a drummer who manages to play in a loose, improvisational style despite being slaved to backing tracks. Makino is all business with her lips and hips, seductively marrying the motions of singing and swaying. Her short skirt seemed intent on revealing undies at any moment. I would have been worried if there was a pole onstage.
The group’s live show sounded precisely like its records – minor chords, dreamy vocals, bombastic guitar riffs and inventive drumming blended with electronic percussion. The only thing lacking was spontaneity, which isn’t that great anyways (Anyone go to Wakarusa this year?). A cellist or violinist could be a welcome addition, but I s’pose there’s no need to fix an ain’t-broke trio. Regardless of your preconceptions of Blonde Redhead, do yourself a favor and give the group’s new record 23 a few spins. It’s a thousand times better than being trampled by a horse – and nearly as cathartic.
Personal Bias: Didn't like 'em the first time I saw them open for Sonic Youth.
Random Detail: Beer pitchers are bigger in Columbia.
By the Way: Members of The Republic Tigers and Beautiful Bodies made the trek, too.