Blonde Redhead sway Bottom Lounge audience


Kelly Wenzel

Kazu Makino, rhythm guitarist/vocalist of Blonde Redhead, plays at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St., while on tour for the band’s ninth album Barragán. 

By Arts & Culture Editor

Before the dawn of large stadium rock shows and corporate-sponsored outdoor festivals, fans could go to local bars or small clubs to see the barrier broken between the audience and the band. Blonde Redhead is a reminder of these times.

Blonde Redhead played the quintessential bar gig Nov. 3 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St. The group, which is now touring North America for its recent album, Barragán, is playing shows in theaters, ballrooms and the like, providing the level of intimacy that their new album requires.

Consisting of Italian-born twin brothers, drummer Amedeo and lead guitar/vocalist Simone Pace and Japanese rhythm guitarist/vocalist Kazu Makino, the trio began its performance with Eastern-influenced “Barragán” and “Lady M,” two tracks from the new album, without greeting the audience. 

These two tracks are the perfect representation of the new album’s overall sound and set the tone for the rest of the performance. The set was more of an experience watching live music performed as an art form rather than an energized rock ‘n’ roll show where one could move and groove. 

Though there did not seem to be much of a stir within the audience, the gaze of the audience members matched the intensity of the band playing not too far from where they stood.

Everyone who bought a ticket knew they were in for more of a sway-inducing performance like those by shoegaze ‘80s bands such as Slowdive, a group from which Blonde Redhead has taken cues.

For the next few songs, the band veered away from the new album and its minimalist sound by playing older material like “Falling Man” from 2004’s Misery Is a Butterfly and “Love or Prison” from 2010’s Penny Sparkle. The older material offered some of the band’s more noise-oriented, synth-backed alternative pop that has led to the band’s association with the nu-gaze movement of the 2000s, allowing the audience to become more lively and sing along with tunes they were more familiar with. 

The group continued by playing “Mind To Be Had,” which features lead vocals by Simone Pace, and “No More Honey,” the first single premiered before Barragán officially came out. As the act carried on, it ventured into the band’s more upbeat material, bringing faster tempos and an eclectic, guitar-driven sound. The songs solicited more of a physical response from the crowd, who took it to the next level by adding some head-nodding to the swaying.

Blonde Redhead then switched into a raw, droning mode, and the trio morphed into the rock band they are. Between songs, Simone Pace would strap on Makino’s guitar or grab an alternate from offstage, and Makino would move to the keyboards, providing an energy that reflected onto the audience, which had been receptive since the trio took the stage. This newfound energy carried on the rest of the act.

To close out its hour-long performance, the group played “Melody,” one of its most popular songs off of Misery Is a Butterfly, followed by “Dripping,” the third track of Barragán, to a grand reception of hundreds of true fans who all stood no more than 50 feet from the band at all times in a concert hall that only holds 700. 

The crowd responded with a call for an encore, which was granted as the band came back and played three more songs, like “Dr. Stangeluv” off of 2007s, 23. The crowd seemingly saved up all of its emotions for one unitary outburst at the end of the performance. That paired with the Lounge’s house lights coming on sent the band and the audience on their way, satisfied.