When Khaela Maricich, the now sole member and embodiment of The Blow appeared on stage in front a bustling crowd in the back room of Cargo in East London, you could have been forgiven for thinking there had been some mistake on the line-up.
The sultry vocals and sex-infused lyrics of the Blow, which bring to mind an equally as exotic, probably buxom and definitely foxy indie poptart, did not seem to match the mousey-haired plain Jane who appeared before us; dancing rather too enthusiastically to her own songs and, between songs, bashing out a stand-up set so well-rehearsed that when combined with her public schoolboy attire, she would not have seemed out of place as concierge for a gay and lesbian comedy night. However, if my first impressions of the Blow were at best bemused and at worst mildly repulsed simply by the complete lack of any ‘cool‘ pretence, these impressions were wrong.
However inappropriate for the venue, crowd or style of music, or simply embarrassing Khaela’s on-stage antics were, there were two things that could not be gotten away from; 1.) the superb quality of the husky vocals combined with the pertinent and often poignant lyrics of the songs, as anyone with Poor Aim Love Songs, or her most recent album, Paper Television, could testify. And 2.) her plain enthusiasm for entertaining an audience by whatever means she had available to her, be they comedic or musical. It is a rare and beautiful thing to see anyone on a stage in front of an audience of East London’s uber chic (me) and highly critical (me again) mocking themselves so unashamedly. The self-deprecation oozed out of every fibre of her being as she retold stories of being dumped by various cruel boys (and, one suspects, girls) and at the same time there was a strength in her self-loathing anecdotes because however much truth there was in her tales of heartache and loss, the joke was clearly on those who had passed her up.
There’s less to say about the music than about the person, largely because you could buy her records and it would sound identical to what was being played on Monday night; deadpan vocals over an iPod backing is not exactly pushing the boundaries by any stretch of the imagination. The songs are pure gold, but you do not need to see her live to experience the music on any deeper or more progressive level. In all honesty, the live set does spoil the aforementioned illusion somewhat, but as the show comes to a close you realise the point of The Blow is not to adhere to some ill-founded and hugely overindulged perception of indie-cool, but to be confident enough with your own style and music to challenge this. The music speaks for itself, and although the comedy routine between songs may have been perceived as unnecessary and perhaps at times even slightly uncomfortable, it was a delight to see a person so far removed from the current East-End scene – where priorities seem to lie more with keeping up an appearance of chic than with the quality of the music being played – that they are brave enough to laugh at themselves and still come out on top.