Around a decade ago I caught some sort of K Records-related traveling extravaganza at a warehouse in Shaw. Calvin Johnson did stand-up comedy (!?), my then-sort-of-friends Dead Meadow did an acoustic set, and this chick did a random performance under the moniker Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano.
That was a fun night, although I didn’t remember too much about Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano besides the name. But around the same time I started to get into The Microphones which gradually led me to The Blow, a new name for the same unusual performer, Khaela Maricich. During a subsequent time period where I was living abroad but trying to reconnect with American music, I started listening to The Blow and came to like it a lot. I was sort of in love with Khaela’s singing, with her charming naïve ballads and dance tunes and gorgeous cover of “Jet Ski Accidents.” There is something magical about her… maybe I was just sort of in love with her (I’m a sucker for a lot of girl singers who are not even into dudes).
Then a few years afterwards, The Blow started to become moderately popular. Khaela hooked up with Jona Bechtolt from YACHT and the music got even dancier and more electronic. I still liked that stuff too — her hit album, Paper Television — but not quite as much as her more intimate earlier music. And I never got around to seeing The Blow perform live again, though I don’t think she played around DC very often.
So I was really looking forward to seeing the show at the Black Cat, and then really impressed during the whole show. What a performer!
Maricich is strikingly self-confident, even as she chatted about her insecurities and life problems and performance coach. She doesn’t play any instruments, but she is comfortable singing a capella or with backing tracks (she had an assistant/bandmate doing backing sounds, but I forget their name). When she first hit the stage she tapped the microphone with her finger to provide some percussion while she sang.
So it wasn’t really a rock performance, more of a rambling, well-rehearsed monologue with dance moves and (silly, minor) costume changes and singing. It was theater, I guess you’d say. Maricich told stories about moving to New York, and her “coach” who was encouraging her to dance more like a pop star and less like an indie slacker.
Above all she talked about Lindsay Lohan (though not by name), in a long complicated story that may or may not have been true. She claimed that Lindsay Lohan and her then-girlfriend had been all into a Blow song (“Parentheses” I guess) and therefore LL had asked to meet KM and talked her into writing a song for a project that never came to fruition. Maybe it is true? Maybe it was ironic camp? Either way it was entertaining, and Khaela didn’t seem to be making fun of Lindsay Lohan, more like empathizing with her life and her loves and losses and disintegrations. A lot of the performance seemed to be Khaela Maricich imagining what it would be like to be a Lindsay Lohan-esque dance pop star. One who prances around on stage in ridiculous tights, leaning into a fan that blows her hair back. And the surprising thing was that she pulled it off really well.
She even did a good job of switching back and forth from her quieter pieces, sans backing tracks, and the electronic dance anthems. I found myself really impressed, grinning and laughing and connecting to this chick.
When you watch somebody perform so fearlessly but so intelligently, it kind of gives you a little confidence that anyone can do it. If Khaela can transform, Jem-like, into an overblown pop star, even if just briefly for a small crowd of fans, maybe any of us can do anything. Nobody sane really wants to be Lindsay Lohan, but maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to let a tiny bit of Lindsay Lohan out…
Here is a review and pics at dcist that I mostly agree with, and I tracked down one lonely youtube clip: