“So have I got a holiday music story for you,” Harry Koniditsiotis tells me excitedly. The singer and sometimes-guitarist for Memphis mainstays, post-punk and noise-pop purveyors The Switchblade Kid, then pitches me a story about his upcoming concert at Two Rivers Bookstore. Halfway into the pitch, Koniditsiotis has already mentioned Edward Scissorhands, Twin Peaks, and old-school Christmas decorations — lots of them. For anyone wondering what the connection is (as I was), well, Koniditsiotis is turning the Cooper-Young-area bookstore into a winter wonderland for a one-off noise-rock concert on Sunday, December 1st.
Besides collecting comic books, toys, records, and music gear, Koniditsiotis is also an avid collector of vintage Christmas blow molds. “I love the ’60s and ’70s Christmas blow molds,” Koniditsiotis says. “The big plastic statues of Christmas characters. And I love all the dreaminess and pretty lights of Christmas.
“There is just something so dreamy about Christmas lights that I’ve loved since I was a child,” Koniditsiotis continues. “When I was in my 20s, I would drive through the Christmas areas of New Orleans listening to the Twin Peaks soundtrack,” Koniditsiotis recollects. “I’m sure David Lynch loves Christmas just because of the lights.”
And what setting could be better for the dreamy concert than a science-fiction and fantasy bookstore, where Koniditsiotis vintage decorations will cozy up with out-of-print book covers featuring elves and magical animals? “I thought that since Two Rivers has been having a lot of noise shows, it would be a great environment to bring all that stuff out and give it that holiday look,” Koniditsiotis says. “You know, give it that dreamy/dreary thing Christmas has going on. Also I wanted to do it before I put all the stuff up at my house because I didn’t want to have to put it all up and take it down again.”
Joining Koniditsiotis at the show will be current Switchblade Kid drummer Patrick Mulhearn and longtime friend Tim Kitchens from the Angel Sluts and Hardaway. “We are going to do actual [Switchblade Kid] songs,” Koniditsiotis says. Still, though The Switchblade Kid’s ouvre will make up the bulk of the concert’s material, Koniditsiotis and his crew plan to experiment with improvisation, creating warm soundscapes with feedback and noise, not unlike the warm, warbly fog a rum-and-Cognac-spiked eggnog might produce. “I love the challenge of playing with other people and throwing them into the deep end. At this point, I feel like pretty much everything I do is billed as a Switchblade Kid show, whether it’s just me or there’s a backing band,” Koniditsiotis says. “I love the element of surprise, and lately, the solo shows have gone so well, this is kind of an extension of the solo shows.”
The singer remembers seeing Edward Scissorhands for the first time and being taken with Kim’s father, a man obsessed with decorating for the holidays. “The first time I saw that, I was like, ‘Wow, I want to be that guy!’ I want to be the guy on the roof stapling fake snow and singing,” Koniditsiotis says. “And I want to put that to music.”
Both Edward Scissorhands and Twin Peaks are fitting touchstones for Koniditsiotis’ plan to throw a holiday-themed concert in a bookstore specializing in genre fiction. Both Tim Burton’s film and David Lynch’s television series center around dreamlike, fairy-tale towns steeped in nostalgia, and in both Scissorhands and Twin Peaks, the nostalgia is underpinned by an element of danger, a manic happiness or coziness that threatens to unravel. Though Koniditsiotis’ concert (hopefully) won’t feature any knife-fingered people or murderers, the juxtaposition of improvised feedback loops with friendly holiday lights will hew true to the dangerously dreamy films that inspired a younger Koniditsiotis.
“Whatever you celebrate or do, I think everyone just enjoys that pretty dreaminess, whether you say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ or whatever,” Koniditsiotis says. “I don’t know if I’ll be singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ but it’s entirely possible,” Koniditsiotis says. “If there’s one show you’re gonna drop acid at, this might be the one.”
The Switchblade Kid: All the Pretty Lights and Dreamy Sounds at Two Rivers Bookstore, Sunday, December 1st, 5 p.m. Free, but donations are accepted.