Photo Credit: Karne Plemon
There’s a kind of essential paradox in being a long-time fan of a band. Do you want these musicians whose work you love to continue to evolve musically, exploring new sounds and trying out new ideas? Does being a fan mean trusting in their judgment as artists? Or does it just mean that they’ve made some music you like, and you want to keep hearing basically the same thing over and over? This isn’t just a question for fans, of course, but something artists themselves agonize over. Depending on how you answer this question, you can get Bowie’s Berlin or Weezer’s Green Album.
Blonde Redhead has always been firmly in the first camp. They’re a group always looking for something, drawing from diverse and constantly changing corners of the musical map. Over their almost two-decade career, they’ve morphed from Sonic Youth-style noise rock to Deerhoof-y dream pop, and, on their first record in three years, Penny Sparkle, currently scheduled for a September release, a kind of pastiche of ‘90s electronica, fusing industrial, chillout, and general doom and gloom over heavy bass beats -- music for vampires to fuck to.
The scene at the Tribecca Y was more or less perfectly suited to this new sound. The band was barely visible, doubly obscured by more fog than Sherlock Homes’ London and an almost total lack of illumination outside of a few artistically-arranged shafts of light. The original members, Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, were all dressed like fashion-conscious Romulans, while a new keyboardist was the spitting image of True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård, right down to the distractingly well-formed pecs straining at a black tanktop.
The show was billed as an “album preview show” and the band perfectly obliged. They played almost exactly 30 minutes of new material and then quickly left the stage never to return, despite almost deludedly hopeful cheers for an encore from the packed house. Yes, the house was certainly far more packed than one might have expected for a show billed as “an exclusive and private invite only event,” boasting a line stretching around the block a guest list that looked at least 20 single-spaced pages. But, considering there’s 8 million people in New York, 300 is relatively exclusive, especially as it included hipsteratti like The Hipster Grifter, who looked positively demure in her new bob. Unfortunately for her (and me), the invite was as deceptive as, well, The Hipster Grifter, in the most important field: the drinks. Apparently, the invite’s come-on “drinks supplied courtesy of 92YTribecca” didn’t mean that there would be free drinks, just a $9 mini-cocktail called “The Blonde Redhead” available for purchase at the bar.
If you’d told Blonde Redhead 20 years ago about the extent of their artistic credibility, their long careers, and their continued evolution, you can’t help but think they’d have been pleased. If you’d told them about having an overpriced cocktail named after them, served to a bunch of self-important music industry dopes in the early evening, it might have thrilled them a bit less.