March 2, 2002
Blonde Redhead's recent sold-out show rocked in so many
ways in support of the New York Underground Film Festival
(running March 6 to 12). It was a truly great gesture. All
profits were donated to the fest. Another underground source,
Shout Magazine helped present the event. The underground
is where the heart is. How many mainstream sources are so
giving? Let me tell you, not enough.
Centuries had the most visually entertaining set of the
night. James L. hooted, hee-heed, and oohed into a mike
set on "echo" over a backing of drones, breathing,
and she-tiger yells. He performed skeletal ballerina tai
chi dances before one powerful strobe and lectured us on
his pain, how dirty he is, and how terrible we are. At least
that's what I thought he was saying, since 98% of all the
vocals that night were inaudible and James and Aimee F's
mikes died for ten minutes of the show.
Calla's lead singer is always ready to sleep. Just kidding.
He gives the drowsiest vocals though. And all is casual
on their set: hooded sweatshirts, t-shirt over thermal,
jeans, hold the cigarette while strumming the first song.
Think Smashing Pumpkins' "Soma" or the Foo Fighters'
"Walking After You".
The guests of honor walked into a warm reception and began
just as warmly with the lulling drums and guitar of "U.F.O.",
but the show's enchantment began for me when Kazu Makino
sang "Bipolar". Her shocking high-pitched, delicate-strong
voice cut through everything. I envisioned her, the Japanese
Kim Gordon-faced sprite, with the pale yellow mini-dress
and matching guitar, and her tall twin elfin friends, performing
in the forest. Then at some point Centuries made a cameo
appearance behind some trees.
Unfamiliar with many of the songs and blocked in the audience,
during some of the songs, I was bored to tears. They didn't
move much. However, I saw the crowd go wild after each song,
and wondered what these people saw in the music.
Then, when Makino sang again, I understood it better. Blonde
Redhead are unconventional performers and an acquired taste.
Their music has depth and variety. Some songs are like Portishead
("Gainsbourg Jewish Music", "Girl Boy"),
but in no way so depressing. Some rock like Sonic Youth
("10", "Water"). Some greats I couldn't
easily connect with anything ("Hated Because of Great
Qualities", "Violent Life"). This wasn't
a we-always-want-your-attention concert. It was, we're going
to give you our music that you know and love, our way. I
was too sober and too much in report-mode to enjoy it all.
Blonde Redhead made sure to deliver their usual sexual tension.
Makino's hair fell in her face as she made soft sways towards
Amedeo Pace, the vocalist/guitarist (and rumored boyfriend).
In some songs they faced each other, and both of their high-pitched,
unusual voices sang back-and-forth in lovers' quarrels.
During the encore, she grabbed him by the back of his head
and brought him down before her. He resisted (hey, there
are people here!).
Sweatier and with messier hair, she lifted up one finger
and mouthed "this is the last one" before the
second encore song. Believing her, some left afterwards,
but the hardcore remained and hooted and applauded until
they came out for a second encore jam song. And the giving
- Alien Rock!