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Live Review and Photos: The Blow, July 15, 2011, Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA

All Photos by Philip Cosores

As someone who writes about music, and tries to do so with a certain level of authority, I pride myself on being able to have an open mind about things. Friday night’s performance by The Blow tested my open mindedness to the maximum, especially as I had not realised that I was going to need one before heading into the performance. Despite what I may have thought about the show on a personal level, I can say that it was eye-opening and original, and I’m undoubtedly glad that I saw it.

But before all that was the opening band He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. Just from looking at the band’s attire it is somewhat clear where their musical tastes lie; rooted in the sounds of 60s and 70s folk, but with a little glam twist. The way they played, it felt more like they were a group of fans singing along happily to old classics than playing songs they’d written – and I mean that in a good way. The rapture with which Rachel Kolar sung, even when just adding backing vocals, was entrancing. Elsewhere on stage Oliver Newell plucked and spun his upright bass as if he were at some kind of hoe down, and tap dancing percussionist (yes, you read that correctly – she’s also their accountant apparently) Lauren Brown showed the kind of coordination I can only dream of as she brutally pounded two floor toms and simultaneously tapped her feet with practiced precision; all fitting with the music. It’s a shame that all of these visual wonders are not easily transferrable to record, but I’m sure He’s My Brother She’s My Sister will give it a go, and whatever may come, they’ll make anyone who comes to see them play live leave with a smile.

Before Mikhaela Maricich took to the stage to perform, it was entirely empty aside from a couple of lights and a microphone. I honestly thought that she hadn’t shown up. However, she put that stupid notion out of my mind quite quickly. Initially upon taking to the stage, Khaela sung a capella, tapping the microphone for percussion. It was almost the exact opposite way to how most shows begin, but it created an atmosphere of comfort between performer and audience that would be crucial over the course of the night. From there, Maricich started her real performance, which was more than a string of songs played one after the other. Instead, Maricich delivered a monologue about what she has been up to over the number of years since she has put out a record as The Blow, and worked songs into the story as she went. The short of it is that she has apparently been writing songs for a famous pop star who has recently come out publicly as a lesbian (like Maricich herself, and many of the audience) and has grown to become friends with the star, while also learning to accept herself and become more confident. The veracity of the story is in question (a quick search of Egotastic – the only place I can think of to research famous lesbian pop stars – yields little), but that doesn’t really matter; this is a performance.

Throughout the night Khaela referred to herself as “we” although she was along on stage. Presumably she was referring to her partner in The Blow, Melissa Dyne, who remains behind the sound desk playing the backing tracks, but Khaela could have just as easily been referring to the multiple personalities she took on through her story. From her past short-haired unassured self, to the famous pop-star, to her dance trainer; she brought a self-conscious humour to the performance that made the audience feel comfortable with what was a retelling of a quite personal story. Some of the comedic set pieces – most notably the moment when Maricich faced directly into a bright light and had wind and smoke blow directly into her face, as a way to make her look more famous – were genuinely funny. Others, such as taking a long time to manually and silently straighten out her hair (ignoring offers of hairbrushes from several members of the audience), were tiring, but this was probably the intention.

The night consisted of several new songs that were only in “demo” form since they were supposedly written for (and declined by) the unnamed pop star. Maricich provided a backing story to each that allowed a level of recognition that doesn’t often come when an artist plays a new song. Amongst these were some old favourites such as “Parentheses,” and by the end when Khaela’s story had run out of steam, she rounded out by playing “Long List of Girls” and “True Affection” to the obvious delight of some members of the audience.

I can’t honestly say I fully understand the point of Khaela Maricich’s current tour, whether it’s to work out new material, to tour just because she hasn’t for a while, or just to get a kick out of seeing people’s reactions to her idiosyncratic performance. Whichever it is, you can be sure that in the time that The Blow have been away, Maricich has not lost any confidence in her performing ability – even if she may act that way.

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