The Blow The Rhythm Room Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Khaela Maricich of the Blow came on stage howling to get the crowd's attention, then transitioned into an acapella version of "You're My Light" as Melissa Dyne orchestrated the lights and sound off-stage on a booth near the bar. The crowd excitedly howled back, and Khaela said, "It's been a really, really, really, really, really long time, Phoenix. So, what's been up? We just made a new record."
She moved into a short narrative monologue that she's known to pair with her performances, about the space: "This is good. This space will work, I think. It's pretty empty." How's this thing here, she said, as she pointed at a large banner pinned to the wall behind the stage that read "The Rhythm Room," and joked, "So we don't forget where we are when we're here."
Throughout the night, Khaela was fixated with asking the crowd if they felt the "emptiness" that she and Melissa tried to fill in space with their new record. She moved into the opening lines of "You're My Light," which goes, "I guess I'm coming to you from the future . . ." Melissa Dyne set the mood for the beginning of the night, when she set blue lights on Khaela, who was wearing a blue blouse that coordinated with the setting, and danced in accented beat with the song, before taking off the blouse to reveal a black tank top she kept on throughout. She mocked her own dance moves, saying that in the past she didn't know what she was doing, and mocking how her dancing probably looks like to the crowd.
Before she moved into "Like Girls," she gave a monologue about the empty space that needs to be filled in the world: "Things are fairly spacious here in Phoenix. It's nice they make this much space for you to do a show. This is about how much we need."
Khaela joked that what The Blow does is not performance art, while at the same time calling out the crowd for doing what's expected in a crowd and band interaction: "We do stuff. You guys clap and laugh. It starts with an empty space, put the song, we put ourselves, we do the thing, you clap and you laugh. We try to immediately jump into another song, so that there's no empty space there . . . sometimes I just have to stop because things just seem a little fakey to me." Throughout the night she engaged in this self-consciousness that made everyone aware of the role of the "performer" on stage. Is Khaela real? Does this look like Khaela? Melissa layered in some vocals of Khaela, then Khaela said, "That's me. That's my voice." Before she started singing "Come On Petunia," she said she thinks of herself as another girl altogether, because if she thinks of herself as Khaela, then she's not allowed to look at Khaela.
The crowd was spread out coarsely in front of the stage, so she asked them to get close and put their hands up as she started making beatbox-like breathing sounds that Melissa added effects to, to make it loop, and then Khaela jumped into the crowd's arms and asked them to move her towards Melissa. She surfed through to get towards Melissa, who was quietly orchestrating sounds and visions from her booth, as Khaela got into The Blow classic "True Affection."
Everyone was so captured by Khaela making her way towards Melissa and crowd surfing that it forced our eyes look away from the stage. It wasn't until she was making her way back, that everyone noticed the setting Melissa created: Amber-blue lights coming from the left and right sides of the stage, as a smoke machine covered the stage in white smoke. Khaela called it "The gates of hell."
When people go to shows, Khaela said, "They want to think a lot about how much empty space there is surrounding everything we know. I think they really wanna think about the void." She jumped into "I Tell Myself Everything," which was followed by a remix that included strobe lights that blended with the white smoke, and all you could see out into the stage, was no longer a crowd, but a blend of cool, bright colors and smoke.
The connection between Khaela and Melissa was powerful: at times it seemed like the crowd wasn't even in the room, but rather it was just the two of them together creating, collaborating. At one point Khaela made a joke about wanting to be looked at because Melissa doesn't like to be looked at, and then said: "You can still see her, if you look at me. It might not make sense to you guys, but it does to me." The lighting during the show played an important role, almost as another member of the band.
Melissa Dyne is known for her light installations, and she added a technical, sharp eye to the show, while Khaela charmed the crowd with her monologues about the empty space that surrounds us all before dancing her energies into each song she performed. At one point Melissa used the lights to project Khaela's silhouette onto a white wall. Khaela brought the crowd's attention to it before chasing it down off-stage, proving (as she'd said) that nobody can experience themselves.
Someone in the crowd asked them to play "Parentheses," and Khaela refused because she said that song was written in 2006, and she's grown in a new direction since the days that Jona Bechtolt was in the band. "The thing about Parentheses," she said, "is do you know how long ago it was that we wrote that? Can you imagine how much a person changes in that amount of time?"
Instead, she did a brief death metal acapella cover of it. It was great--especially when she screamed what she usually serenades the listener with: "You're not a baby if you feel the world / All of the babies can feel the world / That's why they cry." Some bands have to rely on their old material to keep their touring shows relevant, but The Blow's new record stands so well on its own that I agree with Khaela: they don't need to play "Parentheses."
They had the crowd enthralled without relying on their old records to make the crowd comfortable, which is the feeling she was trying to convey all night: enjoy the emptiness.
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Setlist: 1. You're My Light 2. From the Future 3. Like Girls 4. Come On Petunia 5. True Affection 6. Make It Up 7. I Tell Myself Everything 8. Invisible 9. Hey 10. Not Dead Yet 11. A Kiss