The bunker beneath one of Manchester’s finest bars, Soup Kitchen, is the perfect place for Blondes and their brand of ecstatic, build, build and then build some more repetitive house (I think it’s mostly house, with about a million genres of dance music that all merge into each other, who can tell?!) It’s also the perfect time for them, unusually for a gig they don’t come on until 1am, but no headlining electronic act should be on before the turn of midnight in my opinion – well played Soup Kitchen. The room is hardly packed to the rafters, but there’s a decent crowd in for what is essentially quite a niche gig, and there’s certainly more people here than when I last saw them on a rainy Tuesday night in 2012 in the same venue. The crowd who have made the effort are a loyal one – one guy approaches me to tell me he’s come all the way from Cambridge for this, and has dragged his brother along who has no idea who or what Blondes are. Five minutes into this pulsating gig, I see them both enthusiastically dancing away, the brother clearly glad he came to see Sam Haar and Zach Steinman twiddle knobs and manipulate keyboards and synths.
With a new album Swisher out this week, and the way their wonderful tunes play out, building and building with no tangible release, one after another (and the fact that, by 1am, I might have been a little “refreshed”…), it’s hard to distinguish what they play and what they don’t play from their two albums. What isn’t hard to distinguish is just how brilliant these two Brooklyn guys are at throwing a party, one with endlessly innovative ways of bringing a song up to a climax that doesn’t quite exist – if I have one criticism of tonight it’s that there’s never quite that “shit me” moment where everyone watching completely loses it as a song explodes into an incredible coda. Instead, the mood inside the venue is kept at about an eight out of ten for the entire hour they play, always on the cusp of that intangible high, but never quite getting there.
It’s fascinating to watch them work too, they’re clearly having a great time, but never do they take a rest or try and drink in the night; they restlessly push buttons and press keys to keep the entranced crowd locked into their groove. And what a groove it is. It’s just impossible to stand still, the beats and the synths cajoling your whole body into moving along, and it feels great. “Feels” is an important word here, as the sound is so loud you can literally feel every pulse, every baseline running through your feet up to your heart and head. Indeed, the next day my ears are still feeling the music quite a bit. If you get the chance to see Blondes, grab it with both hands. They will make you dance, they will make you feel, they will grab you by the eardrums and force a good time into your brain. It’s night affirming stuff, I just hope they find the bigger audience their efforts deserve.