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March 2, 2002
Blonde Redhead

Stefano Giovannini

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 went on.

- Alien Rock!


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