Show Review: EMA and the Blow at Barracuda

by Dylan Garsee

EMA The Blow Barracuda

When I first saw that The Blow and EMA were touring together, I was definitely confused. My (frankly vague) knowledge of both bands told me combining them didn’t make any sense. The Blow are a fun electro-pop band from the early Aughts that sound like they’re from the early Aughts while EMA did that song “California” that I think is corny AF but secretly actually love. But seeing them together made perfect sense and was a unique treat.

EMA is the brainchild of Erika M. Anderson and creates dark, almost grunge filled music with monologues and dramatic flair, straddling the line between incredibly personal and self-parodying. Anderson is a towering figure with a sky-high ponytail, starting the show with a spoken word piece that transitioned her first song, a dark abrasive number that had the audience confounded. But as soon as she addressed the audience, asking how everyone was there was a sigh of relief. This wasn’t going to be an hour of dour self flagellating but someone allowing us to see deep within their psyche.

Toward the end, a heckler shouted “play that one song” as the band transitioned into “California.” Anderson asked herself “Is this who we are, the band with that one song?” and was visibly upset from the heckling. EMA’s music is very confessional and personal, but this was the most heartbreaking moment of the evening.

Y’all, I’m sorry but I’ll just go ahead and say that The Blow didn’t work for me. I think I just missed the boat on them. For the remaining people who haven’t written me off yet, I’ll piss y’all off too. Modular synth work is the improv comedy of the music world in that it’s only interesting to the people inside that scene and insufferable outside of it. I understand there’s talent there and I understand there’s a level of difficulty involved. But it’s not for me.

The Blow opened the show with a cover of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” that was a cross between Xiu Xiu and that one scene in Tony Erdmann. From there the show went on to become a Powerpoint presentation where all the slides were blank, which was funny for the first five minutes but insufferable for the next 20. The audience was lost and disinterested. I know the Blow are legends in certain circles but I certainly see it that night.

Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is a writer for and a member of the Loser City collective and used to avoid reading comics while writing for Comics Bulletin. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can’t afford, crying. You can follow him on Twitter, where he horrifies celebrities as @garseed.