The Blow are playing this Sunday at The Garrison in Toronto. Normally a club date from a visiting Brooklyn-based band would be pretty run-of-the-mill, but The Blow has had a relationship with Toronto that stretches back to her early days in the performance art-ish anti-folk K Records Olympia, Washington scene and the concurrent Torontopia era. Now, Khaela Maricich and her bandmate of several years, Melissa Dyne, considers themselves "married" to the city. So they enlisted their friends at Wavelength to help recruit locals to put up their "love notes" around town. If you've been walking around, you've probably seen one.
We reached out to Khaela to recount her favourite Toronto memories. She more than obliged. Read on for the first date, marriage and consummation.
The first time we came to Toronto was in Fall of 2003. At that point The Blow was just me, Khaela, a solo act. Someone put us (me) in touch with Jonny Dovercourt [from Wavelength] and he booked us a show at the Blue Moon, a place which I have never seen again in many trips to Toronto [ed. note: it closed in 2012]. I guess it's on the far side of town where many people don't go? I recall a sizeable portion of the audience leaving the venue by 12 am sharp in order to catch the last train back home.
The line-up of the show was The Blow, Pashly, Anna Oxygen and Mirah. Pashly, Anna and I had been on a month long tour. We drove east from Olympia, Washington in a Ford Ranger truck packed to the gills with things we never ended up using: an overhead projector, a television set, rollerskates, twenty pairs of shoes, a head-set microphone, etc.
At the show I asked the audience if there was anyone who might want to marry me so that I could get Canadian citizenship. It was my first time in Ontario and I really had no idea how brazen I was being in relation to the gentle Canadian temperament, but people seemed fairly game, and I remember a lovely boy wtih shoulder length brown hair and hazel eyes near the front of the crowd who looking into my eyes and saying something like, "yes, I'd consider that." I'd gone so far out on a limb by making this kind of proposition there was sort of no option but to bond intensely with the audience, like if you have taken off all your clothes and jumped into bed with a person: you can either hop back out quickly or just take it all the way. It felt like we chose the latter.
At the end of the show Steven Kado came up to me and said that he had told Jonny that he ought to book our show, and that he really loved my super odd album called Bonus Album, which included a tutorial for performing a group dance (origin unknown) called "Little Sally Walker." He said something like, "I know people say your more recent album Concussive Caress is more significant, but it wasn't really for me. I like Bonus Album." And it was the first time I had met this strange Canadian person who stared at me through gigantic black eyeglasses which made his eyes look like a Japanese animated character, and I wondered what kind of a place this Toronto was.
Back to the City
I came back to Toronto shortly after the first show there, for the Wavelength Festival held in 2003 at Sneaky Dee's. I performed a solo monologue/pop song performance piece called, "Blue Sky vs. Night Sky." The headliners of the night were Barcelona Pavilion, and after the show I went out to Chinese food with Maggie MacDonald and Lex Vaughn and some other people. I had a strong sensation that I was sitting at a table with people who would soon become good friends of mine. It's a rare sensation, where you listen to the words coming out of a person's mouth and as they pile up on each other each sentence becomes more and more significant to you as you realize that you are cataloguing the words because they belong in a file marked, "Things That Someone I Care About Said."
I stayed at the home of an old friend from Olympia, Teva Harrison, who once beguiled the filmmaker Guy Maddin and got him to come to the Olympia Film Festival of 1998 and present Twilight of The Ice Nymphs as the opening night feature of the festival. As I remember it, she asked him and he said he'd only come if The Brothers Quay were there, so she got them to come from London as well, and the whole festival was this strange magic event in a town the size of your pinky.
Anyways, during my whole trip to Toronto in winter 2003 The Hidden Cameras' first EP was playing at all times in every location. Toronto is the only town in which I have even had a tour hookup, and the only town in which I've ever done some other things I'm not going to mention, and while I was doing one of these things that Hidden Cameras Ecce Homo album was playing on repeat. And so before I caught the train back to New York to catch a plane to Olympia, Teva and her husband took me to the record store to buy their last copy of Ecce Homo so that I could keep reliving my Toronto experiences over and over again.
As a Duo
The next time The Blow came back to Toronto we were a duo, myself and Jona Bechtolt, who now has a band called YACHT but back then was half of the electrified version of The Blow. It was in the fall of 2004.
I took tons of pictures of the paste-ups of Val Kilmer and quails around town and my mind was blown by how free the city felt. We stayed with Steven Kado and met Owen Pallett for the first time. We had Thai food together, and I remember Owen was wearing a long winter coat and said something about how he was an old fashioned gentleman who wears the tiny glasses. While we were in town our car was robbed, and they took everything that I hadn't been putting to good use, my video camera and my notebooks, and it felt like a spiritual cleanse.
We performed at the Cinecycle and the show was almost a sort of orgy, with people writhing all over the floor and pulling each others' pants off. I'd never seen anything like it. I was really like, "what the hell kind of place is this?" Barcelona Pavilion played the show, and from what I understood it was their last, which was sad for us because we were major fans, and we loved that the guy Ben in the band just stood there holding a CD played which played the beats. I think that Jona and I both felt like we had pretty much met the most kindred spirits we had ever encountered in Steven and Maggie and their band.
This show felt like the erotic consummation of our love affair with the city of Toronto, as much as any musical performance could ever feel. All I'm saying is I have never seen someone pull another person's pants off during a Blow concert, or maybe any concert for that matter. It wasn't bare bum or anything, just down to the tighty whities, but still it happened and it moved us.
Marriage, the dream within a dream
Jona and I came back to Toronto shortly afterwards for another Wavelength Festival. It was around Valentine's Day. We bought matching fake Nikes in Chinatown and at our show at Sneaky Dee's we made a giant ring out of paper and asked the audience to literally marry us. We wrapped the paper ring around the crowd and went crazy dancing in the middle of everyone and considered the union official because that's how it felt.
Was it this time that I went to I Deal Coffee in Kensington Market and ran into that guy Eugene who told me that when he was in high school he was very limber and could do a yoga move on the floor in which he could give himself fellatio? I don't even like coffee but I've always loved I Deal.
We did our next two shows at The Horseshoe Tavern and they blur together a bit in my mind. One was 2007, and the other was in 2010. The Blow reconfigured to be myself and my girlfriend Melissa Dyne in 2007, and both shows were performed by the two of us. In 2007 we performed with Maggie's band Republic of Safety, with Jonny and rad spooky Magdalena.
It was the kind of show where Melissa and I felt so open with the crowd that we started doing things that we never do in front of anyone but each other. It was strange and funny. I was doing these dance moves, like stuff you do in your underwear in the bedroom for your sweetheart, ways that your butt might move but would never be able to move anywhere else, certainly not on a dance floor or a stage somewhere out in public. But it all felt so safe and established and sweet.
At the show in 2010 it felt similarly warm and cozy and we sat in the backroom eating pie in the sky from that place in Kensington Market with Maggie and Reg from Light Fires and Jeff who takes the good pictures and it was a night or two before my birthday and it just felt like the comfortable love of a long term relationship, undeniable and continuing.
Oh my god, we came back to town after some years away last summer and performed at the ALL CAPS! fest and it was like we and the audience all decided, because of our long and trusting relationship together, that it was the right moment to do something like take psychedelics together, and the show was WILD. It was intense.
We had been sitting backstage and we heard the band playing before we went on, Hooded Fang, play, and they were VERY VERY GOOD and it immediately raised the bar so high that we had to climb up to the level they were at and jump off from there. I threw myself out into the crowd and people carried my body around and Melissa was on a small stage of her own out in the audience and she tweaked the samples from the songs and it was a kind of rowdy tunnel of freak out from beginning to end. I've personally never acted so out of control on a stage for a full hour and I don't remember it very coherently and I swear I was sober as one gets and I know Melissa was as well. It was Island Magic.
After we performed there was a concert on the beach with people laying in the sand by a fire and some wonderful electronic music being played by a solo guy on a keyboard with some gear and I nestled myself into the sand next to Melissa and zoned out on the water and the music and the sweetness of the Canadian people around us and it was one version of what heaven could be like.
And so it has continued with Toronto.