Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Blonde Redhead [2015]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Blonde Redhead live at Glowfair 2015

Artist: Blonde Redhead
When: June 19th, 2015
Where: Glowfair Festival, Bank Street, Ottawa
Context: The Glowfair festival in Ottawa was launched by the Bank Street BIA in 2013, as means to bring some post-business hour life to the one of the city’s downtown strips. Admission to the festival was free and boasted ten city blocks of entertainment, including DJs, yoga, buskers, games and of course, live music. I didn’t attend any of the festivities until its third year and I finally did so mostly because I saw an unexpected name listed among the performers. New York City’s art rock trio, Blonde Redhead performing a live set for free in my hometown? How could I refuse? The deal was sweetened further when I was able to combine taking in the show with my annual visit to the city’s beloved Sparks Street Rib festival. So with a tummy full of pork and a good measure of craft beer imbibed, I wandered to the main stage to be blown away frontwoman Kazu Makino and the wizardry of Pace twins, Simone and Amedeo. I had gotten into the group eight years earlier with their shoegaze influenced masterpiece “23” and was neck deep into the two albums that had been released since. It was monster show, all droning noise and feedback on a Friday night under the stars. It was lovely.
Point of reference song: Dripping

Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead
Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead
Simone Pace of Blonde Redhead
The Pace twins
Kazu Makino rocking out

Playlist: The first day of Spring

Well, we made it. It’s the first day of Spring.

Yeah, this past winter has felt like an eternity but if I am being honest, it hasn’t even been that bad of a winter in these parts. It was relatively mild and we suffered through very few snowstorms, up until February, when, of course, all that went out the window. Even still, we’ve been seeing more mild weather again and the mounds of the white stuff have all but melted away.

And yet… and yet… it still felt like a long winter, didn’t it?

Well, it is officially over as of today. Mother nature be damned. And we are going to celebrate with a new playlist, the first of four seasonal themed mixes that I have planned for this year, all based on a theory my good friend Andrew Rodriguez has oft posited: there are certain songs that just “feel” like a given season.

Indeed, these are 25 songs that, even if not overtly Spring themed, they at least hint or evoke that certain mood. The playlist follows a chronological path, from the tentative first steps to the splashes in the rain puddles of April, from the traipsing through meadows of flowers to finally, a bit of a dance into June and the excitement of the summer beyond. Unfortunately, the song I really wanted to start this mix off with, The Gandharvas’ “The first day of Spring”, is not actually available on Spotify but I wanted to tip my hat to it nonetheless and replaced it with a similarly named track by Noah and The Whale.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “April fools”, the first track I ever heard by Canadian singer/songwriter, Rufus Wainwright, and it’s a whimsical ditty
    • “Rain”, a hazy number by The Clientele that evokes raindrops hitting against a steamed up window
    • Emily Haines and Metric covering the Lou Reed classic, “Perfect day”, no other explanation necessary
    • “June hymn”, off The Decemberists’ pastoral sixth album is a call for us all to go out into the woods and breathe deeply
    • And of course, “Spring and by summer fall”, is a ray of sunshine by Blonde Redhead that leads us off into the new season

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

1. Noah and the Whale “The first days of Spring”

2. Kurt Vile “Wakin on a pretty day”

3. Rufus Wainwright “April fools”

4. Fontaines D.C. “Oh such a Spring”

5. Blind Melon “No rain”

6. The Jesus and Mary Chain “April skies”

7. Frank Turner “The opening act of Spring”

8. The Clientele “Rain”

9. Ex Cops “Spring break (birthday song)”

10. Engineers “Come in out of the rain”

11. Sea Wolf “Dew in the grass”

12. Camera Obscura “Honey in the sun”

13. Crocodiles “Endless flowers”

14. Arcade Fire “Month of May”

15. Metric “Perfect day”

16. Neutral Milk Hotel “King of carrot flowers, pt. 1”

17. Cults “Go outside”

18. Sam Roberts Band “Spring fever”

19. Dum Dum Girls “Trees and flowers”

20. The Decemberists “June hymn”

21. Hey Rosetta! “Yer Spring”

22. Unkle Bob “Birds and the bees”

23. U2 “Beautiful day”

24. The Like “June gloom”

25. Blonde Redhead “Spring and by Summer Fall”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.


Best albums of 2007: #5 Blonde Redhead “23”

Like a couple of the albums I mentioned in the first post of this series, counting down numbers ten through six, this album marks my introduction to the band in question. In the case of Blonde Redhead’s “23”, though, it also marks a monumental shift for a band that had already been toiling for almost fifteen years and had six albums under its belt.

The New York-based trio were originally formed in 1993 by Italian-born twin brothers, Amedeo and Simone Pace and Japanese vocalist Kazu Makino. When I went back to explore their back catalogue after falling in love with “23”, I was surprised to find that all their early stuff was heavily influenced by the no wave noise rock of the late 70s. Their sound changed slightly over the course of their albums but none of them came a shade close to the all out majesty of the shoegaze revival manifested in “23”. So although I could see how their fans up to this point might’ve been disappointed by this new direction, I was most definitely not.

The reason for the shift, a happy accident, was that this particular album was the trio’s first attempt at self-production. They had entered into the studio with only loose ideas for songs and the recording process was a difficult one. By the time they were near complete, the band was unsure what they had. So they brought in Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Jesus And Mary Chain, Ride) to mix it. And well, you can definitely hear his stamp on it.

All ten tracks on “23” are fine, some of the finest they have recorded to this day (in my humble opinion), but for the purposes of this post, here are my three picks for you to sample.

”Dr. Strangeluv”: This one appears as track number two and set against the opener, which I will get to in just a moment, is a lovely comedown. It’s lovely and laidback, a breather, if you will, to let you recharge in time for the rest of the album. Not that this is a throwaway at all. “Dr. Stangeluv” is jangly and new age, utilizing instruments as varied as wind chimes, a cow bell, and a vibraslap, all as part of the massive wall of sound. You might miss them if you don’t listen closely but if you removed them, the jenga tower would fall.

”Silently”: “Silently” is a dance number. Critics have even gone so far as to call it ABBA played through a shoegaze microphone. I suppose I can hear it now but only did so after they mentioned it. It is definitely as light a number as Blonde Redhead have ever done. However, there’s a heavy bass beat, a wicked bass line, pluck guitars, and shakers, and it all gets under your skin, And then there’s the ethereal vocals that float and flit above it all, as if a mist that divides and subdivides and comes back together, like a living, loving mass. Wow.

”23”: Ermagard! This track is just so awesome! As an opening number, you could do no better. Those synths at the beginning that almost sound like church bell gongs morph into delicious washes. The rhythm is relentless, making it impossible to tell where the machine ends and the drummer begins. There are so many effects and loops that the layers of guitar hint at an army of them rather than just the two. And Kazu Makino’s vocals are wonderful here, delicate yet bold, filling every space not already clogged up by the rest of noise. This is a tune built for earphones and rocking out in your own head.

For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.