Monday, December 17, 2007

Seeing The Blow

Last Saturday, after swinging by the ever more upscale bourgeoisie Portland International Airport to pick up a friend, I found myself at the Doug Fir Lounge for a show.

This was planned, of course - said friend wanted to go, and who am I to disagree to a visit to the wonderfully retro Doug Fir/Jupiter Hotel? (Where it's rumored that the item found on your pillow is not a mint but a condom - hilarious!)

We were there to see The Blow, an act that's been around for most of the decade in one form or another ( she was formerly Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano).

While The Blow is normally the nom de plume of Khaela Maricich alone, her latest work has been a pop-oriented collaboration with Jona Brechtolt. The result - as evidenced by the show - was absolutely & entrancingly stunning.

I should have known something was up when, following the equipment takedown from the previous band (local metal-ish group named Swan Island), there was nothing but a mic and stand set up on the stage. I guessed that it would be one woman with a guitar.

I was wrong - she came out with nothing but a bottle of water in her hands. She set it down, stood in front of the mic for a second, then, without any announcement or music except the beat of her two fingers tapping the mic, she began to sing "True Affection," the song she would later close the show with.

I was instantly hooked - I knew right away that I was going to love the show.

A side note: I saw The Blow way back in 2002 or 2003 at Eugene's W.O.W. Hall with just her voice and a guitar, and she was the first person I'd ever complimented after a show. There was something I found compelling, even then.

Between songs, Maricich would stop and talk to the audience, throwing up a monologue that seemed part planned and part spontaneous. She led the audience through a twisted tale of the inner landscape of her head, her learning about love and life, her motivation for songwriting and her therapist's advice. It was amazing - every song was a step in her road to finding love, covering the mistakes she made along the way and the happy ending.

At the end of the show, she sang "Parentheses" about her partner, Michelle, who was working the sound (each song was sung to a pre-made track of dance/pop stuff). Then she sang "True Affection" again, this time with music.

I can't describe how engaging she was as a performer - she took me (and, I suspect, the rest of the audience) out of our heads and into hers for over an hour.

Her work was incredibly self-aware and postmodern, witty with a brutal honesty, and from a place so DIY that doing it any other way would be impossible to fathom. She managed to craft a coherent performance that spoke (to me, at least) to the anxieties of finding love in a world filled with anomie.

I'd had a relatively stressful week for a variety of reasons, and along with a fabulous dinner on Friday, the show did a great job of letting me relax and let a bunch of stuff go (albeit temporarily, it turns out).

If you're ever in Portland and you see that The Blow is playing (and you don't mind being a bit introspective), grab a ticket. It's a moving experience.

Oh, and she is one hell of a dancer. Go figure.


Chase said...

Interesting. I saw the Blow a while back, and it didn't click. Yet, I have since gotten an album and am giving it a second chance. It is funny what music hits and sticks and what has to be given some time to infest... maybe in a few listens.

Dennis said...

Her album work is very underwhelming in comparison with her live shows - and I've seen the live shows first before listening to the albums both times.

I think part of the reason was the monologues - I got so much more into the songs that way than I would have by merely listening to them.

The other part is that her instrumental pieces always seems so underdeveloped.

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