Bleached - Bowery Ballroom - 4/23/13
Better Than: Watching the Knick's game in a crowded sports bar.
There should be a point during every live show where you, as an audience member, undeniably want to be who you're watching onstage. That transformation may have been a bit difficult for Bleached's Clavin sisters to inspire in me last night as it require a bit of mental gender bending, but they managed it. It was probably a result of their badass stage presence, though it may be that I've just been reading too much Jonathan Ames.
Bleached motored through a tight set last night as the headliners for another well curated show by Aquarium Drunkard. Cuts like "Next Stop" off their debut album Ride Your Heart, out earlier this month on Dead Oceans, brought a dose of L.A. sunniness to our Vitamin D depleted bodies, freshly emerged from a gray winter. But it was sunshine from east of the 110-- more likely to burn than give a Santa Monica tan.
Ride Your Heart is a marked embrace of a popier sound for the Clavins, who originally found cult status with their punk band Mika Miko. It's the ole "they've cleaned up, but are still same degenerates you know and love" trick. Yet Bleached managed to pull of it off without having their small-but-rabid fan base, who were in full (if not full-West Coast) force last night, throw their leather jackets down in protest. At least not yet.
That may be because the path they're following is well traveled: even the most bubblegum girl groups have a sweet spot in many hearts, from Goldie and the Gingerbreads to the Spice Girls. The Blondie comparison will surely be hammered to death, but it's as clear as Bleached's power chords. I've actually interviewed the Clavin sisters about this subject and they are the first to say that Ride Your Heart is their Debbie Harry moment. As long as they stick well clear of the Valley and keep at least within driving distance of their storied East L.A. roots, they should be fine.
Plus even though people like NPR have called the new stuff "picnic table punk," Bleached isn't quite in that realm yet. They're still rooted firmly enough in the parking lot (though not the gutter anymore) to have started a mini-mosh at Bowery on a Tuesday night. And the energy of those legendary Mika Miko shows still remains intact, especially channeled through Jessica Clavin's guitar playing. By far the best moment of the night was when Isabel Almeida (from openers Hunters) came onstage for a ferocious cover of the Misfits "Hybrid Moments." Pink hair tossed, microphones swung, and never has the phrase "girl power" been more appropriate.
Bleached ended with "Dead In Your Head," a single whose promotional shot shows Jessica drinking a 40 of malt liquor through a crazy straw. In a way that's a perfect analogy not only for last night, but for the band in general. We'll still get our dose of the hard stuff-- it just has to be filtered through a brightly colored lens first.
Critical Bias: I've interviewed and seen Bleached before so I'm inclined to dig them, but that fact was counter-balanced that my subway broke down on the way to the show. Random Notebook Dump: Though they do have a female bassist, Bleached isn't technically an all female band. Their drummer has a dick.
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