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Gig Review: Blonde Redhead at the Hollywood Avondale

Blonde Redhead at the Hollywood Avondale 

Saturday 22 June, 2024 

Full feature by Lucia Taylor 

Photography by Sofia Kent 

Over thirty years, Blonde Redhead have seamlessly ebbed and flowed between noise rock, shoegaze, and dream pop, cultivating loving fans from all corners of indie-rock adoration. This past Saturday at Avondale’s historic Hollywood Theatre, we were treated to their much-anticipated return to Aotearoa after thirteen long  years.

The foyer of the Hollywood Avondale hummed with excitement; a building that  predates the electric guitar by two decades was about to become shoegaze heaven. After chuckling to myself imagining explaining ‘shoegaze,’ to a time traveller from one of the Hollywood’s first audiences of 1915, I dashed inside.  

Smoke rippled across the stage as The Pace twins, Simone and Amedo, made their entrance with Kazu Makino made their entrance. The theatre was filled with soft sounds reminiscent of holding a seashell to your ear as a child, the ambient soundscape captivating the audience’s attention beyond the expectations lent to its volume. The mysterious sustained synth suddenly collapsed as Amedeo commanded, “Tell me how you seek your man, and tell me all your secret spells,” the opening lines to 2004’s Falling Man.  

Dr Strangeluv followed with a melody you could float away on, but as it faded out, a (rude) heckler’s comment, “You’ve got to be loud!” was instantly met by Doll is Mine, a louder and heavier song with a droning and sustained intensity that sounded as if the three-piece had been multiplied into a ten-piece orchestra and  transported to a horror film. This juxtaposition continued throughout the show -  each moment you drifted away with the fairies and sweet synthesiser, you were brought back to reality instantaneously, unable to look away from the mesmerising band. 

Although they did not play anything from 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, the album was there in spirit throughout the show, with red lighting  evoking the cover art. After another song from the beloved Misery is a Butterfly, Blonde Redhead turned to last year's strawberry-adorned Sit Down For Dinner.  Anybody who has heard the opening percussion to this album will understand why it called for me to leap out of my seat and away from the beautiful view from  the balcony to dance. 

About three hundred sways back and forth later, I returned upstairs in perfect timing to be seated for the softly reflective I Thought You Should Know. Despite the sadness of the song, Kazu was still dancing like an astronaut-fairy hybrid, her legs defying gravity with their wobbly yet graceful outward steps. I was seated with a tear or two in my eye, certain I wasn’t the only audience member deeply struck by seeing such subtly emotive music live.  

After over an hour of back-to-back songs, Kazu Makino finally spoke, saying, “Thank you guys so much!” With that, they departed the stage. However, I didn’t fret; I could see a very busy guitar tech backstage. Of course, they returned to the stage as we all clapped, an age-old game of musical peek-a-boo.  

Makino talked a bit more, wondering, “Is it our first time in this city?” A question the crowd met with a resounding “No!” And enthusiastic reminders of 2011 Laneway. Regardless, she commented, “It’s so nice and diverse. I don’t think I’ve seen any straight person today,” at which point Amedeo teasingly gestured to the sound technicians to turn her microphone off.  

Thankfully, they did not oblige, and she began to sing one of my favourite songs from the new album, Kiss Her Kiss Her, an echoey and mysterious soundscape of a verse with despondent vocals that transforms into the dreamiest of dream pop choruses that demands to be danced and sung along too.  

Kiss Her Kiss Her was the perfect all-encompassing conclusion to a Blonde Redhead show, equal parts melancholic and cheerful, and ambient and upbeat - it beautifully tied together the dualities of Blonde Redhead that we love so much.