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Blonde Redhead + Buffalo Daughter

Cori Taratoot
Blonde Redhead + Buffalo Daughter

Blonde Redhead + Buffalo Daughter

City: Portland, Oregon
Venue: Aladdin Theater
Date: 2003-06-29
Once I fell in love with a girl who liked Blonde Redhead. She tore my world apart, blew it to bits. She lived in Chicago, I lived in Portland, and for 28 days we thought we could make it work. She said to me, this isn't like adding another egg to the mix, this is like an organ transplant, and I believed her. She read me chapters of Carole Maso's Aureole, she wore my Johnny Cash T-shirt, she flew thousands of miles. And while she did that I listened to Blonde Redhead. I listened to the sound of Kazu Makino's sexy voice, I listened to the sound of Amedeo Pace's dissonant choppy guitar lines, and I wondered. I dug into this band and this girl and parts of myself I forgot existed. I obsessed. I hungrily read magazine articles and learned that Blonde Redhead's band members (first four, now three) met randomly in New York in 1993, that Sonic Youth's drummer Steve Shelley produced and released their debut record. It made sense. Daydream Nation was part of my new love story, our common ground, an all-time favorite album for both of us. I could hear the math and the art underneath Blonde Redhead's mesmerizing jagged hum. But mostly I found myself drawn to the first four tracks from 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. I wanted dreamy, not angry; more soul and less cerebrum. Love and lust are ultimately dangerous stuff, and I knew enough to linger in the embryonic fluid. But before I could catch my breath, she said, I can't do this. The affair was over, my prenatal adventure ended as fast as it began. And I took her favorite T-shirt, my Blonde Redhead CDs, and the book of Candy Jernigan's that she gave me, and I let them go, I gave them away. The sound of Blonde Redhead, permanently imprinted inside of me, became too much to hear outside of me. Blonde Redhead was the sound of what I had found, and what I had lost. A few years passed, and Blonde Redhead remained something of an obscurity. No new album. No tour. A break from the sonic reminder, and the scar tissue of my heartbreak thickened and numbed. Then, in the spring of 2003, Touch & Go announced the trio's arrival on the West Coast of North America. Portland would be the final stop. Should I go? I went. I went carrying a suitcase of rotten and beautiful memories, of obsessive speculation and unanswered questions. She was gone, and I never really understood why, but as time passed it silently pieced itself together, slowly, like seaweed drawn to seaweed, clumped on the shore. I arrived at the Aladdin with enough distance between Blonde Redhead and me, I imagined the reminiscence would be bearable, maybe even inspiring. Buffalo Daughter opened and immediately took command of the audience, and of the physical space that contained us. No easy task. The ambience at the Aladdin treats singer-songwriter types and their sit-down audiences right, but rock bands and their jittery fans often feel alienated by the place. On this night, the crowd -- immaculately groomed and slightly affected -- mostly sat. But the loyalists stood. Drama. Anticipation. My own inner turmoil, combined with the fantastically compelling set from the Japanese openers, made for a swirling warm-up. The electronic wizards on stage turned one in for the memory banks, our brains stuffed with loops and guitars and female vocals. And the turntable interplay. Buffalo Daughter improvised and talked to each other with their decks, creating an extraterrestrial language. Supersonic hydroponics for the clairvoyants among us. When Blonde Redhead took the stage life became a narcotic blur. I remember everything, and nothing. On top of three or four brand-new tracks, Makino and the Pace brothers performed "Melody of Certain Three" and "Bipolar" and "Hated Because of Great Qualities" and "Mother" and "Futurism Vs. Passéism, Pt. 2". In no particular order. The mute crowd turned verbal when the opening notes to "Equally Damaged", the 40 second instrumental which opens Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, began. And when the Buffalo Daughter drummer became the fourth member of Blonde Redhead as they segued into "In Particular", a high moment soared higher. And Kazu Makino sang:
X
XX
Alex
I'm your only friend
X
XX
Alex
Your love will sing for you.
Much has been said about Blonde Redhead, and much of it is reductionist: "Italian twin brothers and a Japanese seductress." I can tell you what they sound like (dissonant, melodic, dark) or what they look like (the on-stage body language between Makino and guitarist Pace so intimate you feel filthy and excited watching, like a voyeur, like a criminal). I can describe the double guitar-no bass approach, or the minimalist drumming, or I can speculate about how Kim Gordon's approach to singing seems to have affected the band. But if ever music exemplified the futility of language, Blonde Redhead. Blonde Redhead, screaming and melting down like Yoko at the end of the last song. Blonde Redhead, transport to another world. Blonde Redhead, a world I couldn't see, but always hoped existed. Blonde Redhead didn't say a word to us from the stage. And she never told me exactly why she left. But now I know that you can't always make sense of what's just happened, words don't always work. And some things aren't meant for this world. For me, well --- I'll always think of her when I listen to Blonde Redhead, Stars of the Lid, Her Space Holiday, Wauvenfold. But if you ask me about her, I guess I won't have much to say.

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