Monday, December 06, 2004

Bland Redhead loses to the Carlsonics

Have you ever thought you were supposed to like a band so much that you actually did, for a while? I did it in high school with Avail, in college with more band than I can count, including Hoover and Drive Like Jehu. And I did it this weekend at Blonde Redhead’s performance at the 9:30 club.

Their album, Misery is a Butterfly, is my favorite record to come out this year…it’s lush, sad, romantic, like a spy movie soundtrack except not corny. All I want to do when the record end is hit “repeat.” The live show…not so much. I shelled out over 50 buck to see that show—two tickets, an exorbitant service charge, cab fare both ways…I reckon I got about ten bucks worth of fun out of it.

Te band relies heavily on prerecorded instrumentation to pull off the lush instrumentation that works so well on the album. The problem is, when you hear prerecorded harpsichord, strings, and vocals, it really makes you wonder what isn’t recorded. At one point the singer stood up from the keyboard to dance and do some singing…she had the mike an arms’ length from her face, eyes and mouth shut while her voice cam clearly through the PA. After Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson’s masks dropped, I’m really not ready to see a band I like fall victim to the same thing…if they had made all their loops onstage live, or stripped down the record to something a three-piece could conceivably pull off, I’d love it. Just rocking the record sorta sucks.

The band experimented with some jams a few times, to varying degrees of success…one really rocked. But seeing them do that so well, and knowing they’re capable of it, just made the rest of the performance kind of a letdown.

The Carlsonics’ performance at some couples’ holiday party on Saturday…that was the real rock stuff, right there. We got the call kinda late—apparently this couple wanted the Carlsonics for their holiday bash, and all the bands’ friends were invited. So me and Tash and Deirdre and like eleven other people all crammed into this tiny Toyota and zoomed over. It felt like high school all over again, except we were all more confident and had cooler outfits. We busted into the joint, and it was sweaters galore and sequined tops, a massive buffet table groaning under the weight of cookies and three kinds of fresh meat, and all these people looking at us like “who let the stoners in?”

Really, the whole thing was so PG-rated “Dazed and Confused.” The band had just finished their first set and we had some catching up to do at the liquor table…which we sure did.

Turns out the host and hostess were our age but from the success planet, where salaries are quadruple and all travel is for business purposes. These were nice people who seemed like they played the DC game they were supposed to and missed out on a bit of rock and roll fun…which the band and crew were more than happy to provide.

My god, the second set was unreal—it was just the Carlsonics, some red light bulbs, ten people max in the crowd and a smoke machine. The whole place was wall-to wall fake smoke and blistering rock…it was so _real_ and so great! When was the last time you saw a band that you could walk right up and hug mid-song, and they were good, too?

While the crew knocked out this jaw-dropping cover of “Shakin’ All Over” with a real interstellar overdrive of a jam in the middle, I looked over and saw this eight-year old African girl in a funky traditional top who had snuck away from her mom and was having what could only be a rock’-n-roll transformation. She was bobbing away right next to the hostess who had fucked off from her own party and came down to rock out…the hostess was so cool and hilarious. I think she only talked to her invited guests for sheer social obligation. There’s nothing like crashing a party and having the host and hostess love it.

Just awesome, the whole thing. After the final set we all trooped up and laid waste to the buffet…I have never before and will never again chase that much bourbon with pork dipped in ranch sauce even if it is free.

You know you’ve had a great night when you stumble home with your ears ringing, drumming along to the band in your head on your girlfriends’ back and stop to puke in the road. Man, I love that band…

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