Concrete Blonde are that rare animal, an alt-rock band with staying power. The group’s first, self-titled album got the band’s career rolling in 1986, but it wasn’t until 1990’s Bloodletting, featuring the singles, “Joey,” “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” and “Tomorrow, Wendy” that they broke through to a wider, more mainstream audience. Many years and albums later, the band is as vibrant and relevant as ever.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the release of Bloodletting, Concrete Blonde is playing a whirlwind, coast-to-coast tour this summer, making a stop in Arvada at the Arvada Center for the Arts on June 21. Co-founder and lead singer, Johnette Napolitano, gave generously of her time as she sat down with Boulder Weekly.
Boulder Weekly: It’s been a while since you’ve been on the road. Did you have any apprehensions as you were planning this tour?
Johnette Napolitano: Well, you just never know if the audience is there. You really never know. You really can’t take it for granted. I read something today that Sarah McLachlan was saying that the Lilith Fair tickets aren’t selling as well as they thought, and they’ve got some really big names on that tour. You really never know when to go out, and it’s a big undertaking to do it right, so you take a chance that the audience is out there, and they seem to be, which really surprises us, I think. I think it surprises my agent a little bit, too. (Laughs.) Matter of fact I know it does!
BW: How does it feel to be going back out on tour?
JN: One thing I can say about this tour that’s interesting is that I have heavy, heavy anxiety with touring, and it would never be something that I take for granted, that I don’t get completely puking nervous before I go on stage. But this tour I’m not so nervous, and I was trying to figure out why, and I told Jim [Mankey, guitarist] I think that it’s because we’re not promoting a record, you know what I mean? We’re not out there to flog anything; we’re out there because people actually want us to be. It’s been 20 years since we made this record, and it’s just a great thing.
BW: What else have you been up to lately?
JN: There’s a lot that I’m doing. I’ve been down to New Orleans quite a lot of this year, a week out of every month, and I’ve been playing with some flamenco artists down there. My father and I had a great trip to New Orleans once, and I would love to have a club down there. So, maybe at the end of the year I’m kind of gonna look for a little place and have a little Flamenco place. It’d be fun.
BW: What is it about New Orleans that’s such a big draw for you?
JN: New Orleans was the first place that we went on tour. Our first tour ever was opening for Cindy Lauper, and the first city was New Orleans. And being from California, I just thought it was the most exotic, I mean, it was like a storybook, you know? It was like walking around in a book or a movie. And I just thought it was the coolest place in the world, and the vibe was just so unlike the West Coast vibe. It’s just an older part of the country, and I really took to it like crazy. It’s been one of my favorite places since. So in between tours I’d go stay there for a month or whatever, and I just really like being there, and I’ve met some amazing musicians down there.
BW: That would explain why you want to maybe have a club or something there.
JN: I do! And I want to have a flamenco club, and I’m working on an idea to produce a flamenco show at the Preservation Hall in September. You know, it’s a Spanish city, the Spanish rebuilt it, and it just makes all the sense in the world to be part of the musical identity of New Orleans. It seems so natural to me. It just seems right.
And flamenco, it’s musician’s music. There’s really odd, Eastern time signatures and things like that. I’ve never seen a musician in the world that wasn’t really impressed and really blown away and transfixed by flamenco. It just feels like the right thing. I could just see being an 80-year-old woman dressed in full flamenco drag walking around in the morning (pauses) with a drink. (Laughs heartily.)
BW: The real question is “What would the drink be?”
JN: (Laughing) The drink is always wine. It’s always red wine.
On the Bill
Concrete Blonde play the Arvada Center For The Arts on Monday, June 21. Tickets start at $35. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 720-898-7200.