“You London people, with your cool clothes and your driving on the left,” sighs Khaela Maricich, half of Portland's The Blow, to a glowing Luminaire. “All I do is write songs about things I can’t have.” It’s a theme throughout her set of winding anti-folk vocals (taken mostly from recent fourth LP Paper Television) that float alternately above big sexy beats and nothing but the sound of her finger tapping against the mic. Between singing, robot-dancing and acting out her lyrics, she tells us long, funny stories about her attempts to understand love, get over herself, and write “hot songs” that link the whole set together as some kind of exploration of the human condition. And when she’s finished telling us about her struggles with intimacy and about imaginary sexist truckers who are really just scared of the immensity of the universe, she announces she’s going across town to play another gig. Sweaty, exhilarated, and hungry for more, we have no choice but to follow.
Ned adds: You could characterise The Blow as a sort of anti-Hadouken. Like the castaway in Watchmen who sales home on a raft of dead bodies, Hadouken have achieved NME-cover/Vice-party success by reappropriating cleverly from the failed genre of grime. The Blow, too, are white people borrowing from black music - in this case The Neptunes' click'n'b - but while Hadouken will probably sell ten times as many records as JME, The Blow, of course, won't sell 1% as many as Chad and Pharrell. Producer Jona Berchtolt, aka Yacht, is stealing from success to enrich their failure, not the other way round. And so, while Hadouken just peddle a carrion gimmick, The Blow's pastiche beats become a way of consciously contrasting their geeky, self-deprecating indie-electro against all that Billionaire Boys' Club platinum-record pop glamour, resulting in a deadpan bathos which fits their purposes far better than an acoustic guitar ever could. 'I may look pathetic now,' Khaela Maricich is saying, 'but imagine how much more pathetic I look when I dance badly to r'n'b at a house party with a guy who's out of my league.' It's not about irony so much as agony.
It could be that they're the anti-Hadouken, anyway, or it could be that they just worship a hot beat. On the evidence of this gig, it's almost certainly both.