The Blow @ Glasslands, Brooklyn 5/13/10

The Blow is back. Armed will all new the Blow songs. Sort of. Late last year reports started trickling out about Khaela Maricich’s new piece, and its intriguing underlying thesis, which based on various reports I’d framed like so: “Khaela divulged onstage she’d been collaborating with Lindsay Lohan, and the Blow would perform her songs (and songs the Blow wrote for her), occasionally taking character in pumps and various put-upon LiLo-isms. As a piece, of course it is fictitious … but through it Maricich’s set herself up to explore issues relating to identity, celebrity, and sexuality, as framed by Lindsay’s various facets, fallacies, and pitfalls.” Based on that I was unreasonably excited to see the show, not knowing what to expect. It was better, weirder, more engaging, and more confounding than anticipated. Texts rolled in echoing that sentiment (“this is strange … but I like it”), though Glasslands’ echoes were loudest for “the hits”: “True Affection,” “Fists Up,” “Parentheses” (in pumps). They were the crowd concessions, stitched into a much more fascinating piece of original material, presented in demo form. Khaela took a quantum (and quanitzed-drum) leap from the largely unaccompanied low-fidelity folk of Everyday Examples… to the more fully realized Concussive Caress… and Paper Television LPs; these “workshop” shows she’s been playing, recently opening for Vampire Weekend then headlining through the Northeast, offer the chance to watch the next step, already in progress.

The crux of the project, the core concept, was revealed when Khaela recreated one of her “talks with Lindsay” onstage: “‘You are normal. Even if you are getting a DUI and not wearing any underwear, people think of you as normal. So if you do something radical, it becomes the new normal.’ But, she blew it.” The “it,” it’s implied, was Lindsay’s chance to be a lesbian role model in a shape we’ve never seen. (Also implied: That we’re talking about Lindsay Lohan; Khaela never says her name, because “it is gauche to brag about celebrities in NYC.”) The “blew it,” that’s where the Blow comes in, with this piece.

It takes a little bit to untangle the knot of concepts Khaela Marcich is tying up here, but the thread is long and strong. There are funny monologues detailing fake correspondences with Lindsay, there’s Khaela playing with her outfit and playing at least three roles on stage (herself, channeling Lindsay, channeling Lindsay’s dance instructor). But underneath all the pretense there are, simply, pop songs.

The irony is that in playing with the notion of the pop star, Khaela’s stage-sidling choreography and slides into bubblegum vocals prove it’s a route that could be hers, if she wanted. Instead she’s offering pop as sociological meditation, a conversation starter rather than LOLspeak punctuation. Paper Television was marked with the personal, and parenthetical proclamations of love — this narrative allows her to escape the personal, despite filtering “big ideas” personally.

All of that said, the set was bookended by Poor Aim: Love Songs songs — opening with “Hey Boy,” closing with the “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”-quoting “Come On Petunia.” So maybe we’re not so far from “love” just yet. But getting there.

The Blow’s doing at least three more of these workshop gigs in NYC in the coming months, a “conversation” she’s having with the city to help shape her forthcoming album (an EP is due first). It’s not your average night out at a show. Go. These photos and videos by Jessica Amaya may help convince you.

Opening the night were Julianna Barwick’s transfixing sea of vocal loops, and Acrylics, who’ve stepped up their visual game considerably (lights, signs, wigs, and beach balls and flowers for the crowd). I’m all out of words, but they were both quite stylish.