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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Show Review: Blouse & Feathers at The Void San Diego

Blouse frontwoman Charlie Hilton

Show Review:
Blouse & Feathers at
The Void San Diego

  Watching Feathers play their all-girl take on trad synth pop, I was considering the possibility of buying new deck shoes/topsiders for this weekend's Vampire Weekend/Beirut Hollywood Bowl show.  The Vampire Weekend show is Saturday, which does not leave enough time to buy online, except by perhaps using some kind of Amazon service that requires signing up.  Leaving aside the issues of delivery, there is the simple question of what one gains by showing up in an obviously new pair of deck shoes at a Vampire Weekend show at the Hollywood Bowl.  I would think that you might be mocked by more knowledgeable attendees, mocked about the newness of ones topsiders.  The prospect of shoe-related mockery at a Vampire Weekend show was enough to make me physically shudder, and frankly made it hard to focus on the opening band.

Charlie Hilton of Blouse

  After the set, sitting at the bar using my smart phone, I looked up Feathers profile.  Unfortunately Feathers was also the name of a short-lived Freak Folk act fronted by garage-rocker King Tuff.  The earlier Feathers put out a record on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label in 2006, and that record accounts for most of the profile plays/listeners on Last FM.  Meanwhile on Facebook they have 3000ish fans. So they've got entry level listenership.  On the positive side, they are an all female synth pop band- so huge potential audience out there.

  On the negative side, people are going to be sexist because the music industry is sexist and permeated by the male gaze.  I thought they showed potential but will rise or tread water based on the larger popularity of the synth pop genre. Genre is unfortunately crucial for band with smaller Audiences because genre functions as a separate spectrum for drawing Audience attention.  Artists will often come to the attention of new Audience members because of their placement in a specific genre with which the audience member is already familiar.

 The idea of liking "new music" is always mediated by genre awareness on the part of the listener. Jf a lesser know Artist is working in a disfavored genre with few natural adherents, their job is tougher and it makes the talent level of the Artist more important for gaining any kind of wider Audience.  Synth pop is def. what I would call a disfavored genre at the moment. I'm talking about drum pad driven, with synthesizers and a lead singer, synth pop.  So that is an uphill trek for Feathers but I wish them the best on their journey.

 You can't talk about Portland based, Captured Tracks signed band Blouse without mentioning the fact that they once used drum machines and no longer use drum machines. Blouse is now a trad indie four piece with a live drummer and a sound that is best described as trad indie rock.  It probably bodes well for their long term future, but ultimately the particular method of delivery is secondary to the presence of singer/guitarist Charlie Hilton.  Blouse is going to succeed or fail based on her popularity irrespective of the arrangement of the band around her.

  It's inconceivable, given their relationship with Capture Tracks, that the decision to abandon synths and drum machines in favor of guitar and drums, was anything other then an honest organic artistic decision, so more power to them I say. It can hardly hurt their appeal. As long as Hilton is fronting the band the style of delivery of the music is unimportant.  Personally, I find her compelling but coming so soon after Pharmakon blew my mind (last night) the indie rock vibe failed to click. Not their fault, mine.

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