Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Live Shows: Blondshell and Hello Mary, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 7/16/23

Photo by Ken Sears

When Blondshell announced her first headlining tour, I was surprised to see Sabrina Teitelbaum's musical project was playing The Middle East, especially the upstairs room. It seemed like Blondshell had already outgrown a two hundred seat room, especially by buzz alone. It sold out almost immediately, and as her stature grew, I kept expecting the show to be moved to a larger room. But, Sunday night Blondshell played the dive-y Middle East Upstairs in a show that fans will be bragging about attending for years to come.

From the opening song of "Veronica Mars," Blondshell had the audience in her hand. The buzz worthy stature was evident from the start, as I've never seen a band have a banner that large onstage at The Middle East, or a singer wearing in ear monitors there. Teitelbaum played her heart out, and her love of performing live was obvious. It was a diehards only room, and she loved every minute of that. The entire crowd sang along to virtually every word in every song, and when Teitelbaum said it was the best crowd they had played in front of, even though it's such a cliche thing to say, you believed it.

I was a little worried that Blondshell might not translate well live and be more of a studio project, but Teitelbaum has put together a killer indie rock band. She has this insane charisma that fits her slacker style of vocals perfectly. She delivers lines like "I think my kink is when you tell me you think I'm pretty" and "The sex is almost always bad / I don't care cause I'm in love" with just enough of a knowing smirk to win over even the snobbiest music critic.

Blondshell has released covers of The Cranberries and more recently Samia, so I fully expected one of those to make it in Sunday night's set. Considering her debut album is nine songs, she had to include something else. She did a cover of Le Tigre's "Deceptacon," and simply nailed it. Teitelbaum avoided mimicking Kathleen Hanna, and the cover was simply better for her doing it in her own voice. 

Hello Mary opened the show, and I wasn't too familiar with them before Sunday night. I listened to their self-titled album in the background once, but not that closely. Their set Sunday night completely won me over. They started off playing more mainstream 90's influenced alt-rock heavily leaning into pop that fit perfectly well with Blondshell, but they got noisier and more art rock as they went on. Noisy pop/rock songs are one of my true loves, and Hello Mary nailed that, and even went further into experimentation. One song with vocals from drummer Stella Wave sounded like Primus going shoegaze. In a set that dabbled in virtually every indie rock subgenre, Hello Mary shined by refusing to be just one thing.

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