Girlpool@The Reverence Jan 27 2016
It is hard to choose only one thing that was great about the night I went to see Girlpool play at The Reverence in Footscray. Was it the fact that the band were wonderful and endearingly dorky in thier on stage banter? The fact that Harmony pronounced the word emu like Homer Simpson does in that episode where he says he does not want to end up working on Marge’s ”Eemu Farm.” The fact I got to sit with a bunch of new babes and talk about all the things that are important to me. That is, once I fought through my initial stifling anxiety over what i was saying. One of the girls was wearing a white t shirt that said THE FUTURE IS FEMALE. She was one of the girls from the band The Girl Fridas . I was sitting with all the girls from that band. I was sitting with people who knew Courtney Barnette while she was writing songs on a porch in Preston. Even the guys at our table were kind and respectful. Did you know there is a place where you can attempt to eat a metre long hotdog in five minutes? If you succeed you get your photo on the wall of fame.
Well, you know now.
Support band: Summer Flake from Adelaide were lovely and moody. The singer sounded a lot like the singer in The Cranberries for one song. I quite liked the throwback feel as it simply did not mimic that particular sound, it borrowed and mutated it slightly for a different but familiar affect. It only lasted for one song and then the sound was much more upbeat and pretty with scuzzy guitar mixed with soft melodies and a sound as sweet as soft serve icecream with a chocolate flake stuck in the melty vanilla swirls. I read somewhere that a guy said that we do not love lyrics as much as we think we do. I disagree with him i believe there is poetry in music and music in poetry. They both share a need for rythm and structure. When Steph sings the words ”son of a gun, dont turn away from me” in that sad but strong and purposeful lament, I want to hold her hand. Until the guitar comes in and creates a sense that she does not need hand holding. She is just fine.
Girlpool member; Harmony was selling a few records before the show.
”Are you in the band?” I say the knowledge already dawning on me.
”Yes, Im Harmony.” She smiles. My heart explodes. The end.
She smiled and shook my hand and said, ”Thank you so much for coming out and buying this record.” They had literally schlepped a box of records to the venue with no help. I was glad o see the record was in plastic wrap, it was going tobe safe from any down pour. ”I was hoping to buy your first album.” I say. Harmony shakes her blonde bob and says. ” We sold out of the EP and the t shirts.”
”You underestimated how much you are loved.” I say as i place my new purchase in my perfect tote for record buying. Harmony laughs and nods in agreement.
I make my way through the crowd and get to the front with no trouble. When Harmony and Cleo stride on to the stage and pick up their guitars, they are greeted with cheers and claps. Harmony has a bed base guitar and Cleo is sporting a cream electric and what one can only describe as a striking Hawiian shirt tied up at the waist. Her short reddish brown curly hair catching the stage lights. They were performing for fans who knew and sympathised with the struggle. The struggle to be taken seriously as a female musician in a world where guys get it all. The band could not have accidentally chosen a better time to play. The day after the unfunny joke that is Australia’s national radio station: Triple J countdown of the Hottest 100. A countdown in which more Boys from a elite private school, have won the hottest 100 than women. The Rubens? Who are they? I don’t care. The difference is nobody cares if a bunch of females hate a band. Our opinions don’t matter enough to be taken seriously. Men however. Their musical opinions create genre and general opinion, get published more.
Girlpool came into being because two young women were ”Sick of being pushed aside.. Thats why the music they create strikes so many emotional chords and blossoms so many parts of the brain and memory factory. One critic said that Girlpool could sing about anything and it would not matter. Thats how strong the harmonies and vocals are. ut, they do not just sing about any old thing. The songs make me think of my sisters, my cousin Emily whom I used to be so close with, and every female friendship i destroyed with my head strong ways and unwillingness to relent. I am so sorry. The absense of drums creates the bare bones of something extraordinary. All thats left is the guitar and base and vocals that insert a sense of vulnerable strength that is heightened by the strong lyric content. The lyric content is what caught me by my brain and heart from the start. They were like nursery rhymes written in dark corners by candle light. songs created from short sharp and visually stunning in their imagery.
The title of the album: Before The World Was Big, is also the name of my fav song on the album and when they played it live I sang along softly making sure the girls could see that i knew the words. ”I just miss how it felt standing next to/ wearing matching dresses/before the world was big.” Cleo and Harmony sing the line together but out of time. It is a song I wish I had written for my middle sister Romy. The matching floral monstrosity we were made to wear. We are six years apart. That means I was 12 when made to wear matching Sunday best with my 6 year old sister. You cannot tell the age gap in the photos. Im a fire truck trying not to think about all the ways, my mind has changed. The song drops me back onto the farm with my sister. Our world was so small then. Now the only thing she and I have in common is a shared odd and religious upbringing. Girlpool are a sea of friendships, lamentations of missed connections and lost loved ones.
As the girls continue the set I look behind me at the enthralled faces of each crowd member. They are all lost in the moment that is taking place before them. Some are on phones more than likely tweeting about how great the show is. My assumptions will be proven correct when I check twitter on the train home. I am getting tired and it s getting difficult to stand. I kneel on the floor and look up at the stage. A few moments later a girl kneels down next to me in solidarity. ”Are you alright?” She whispers. I smile and nod. ”Just tired.” I whisper. She nods and smiles and stays down on the floor with me until I stand up for the song Chinatown so I can sing along to the lyric that is sung with a bit of a warble shout of bravery: And if I told you I loved you, would you take it the wrong way. I was not the only enthusiastic person mouthing the words along with the band. They looked so happy up there in their wide leg slacks and black boots, pouring it all out so we can soak up another perspective and musical entity that is not soaked in testosterone and destruction. Girlpool wear their strength as a musical act with dignified force. The only regret is that they don’t play the more punk threaded and street urchin charmers of Jane and Blah Blah Blah from their Debut EP. I will purchase a download of the EP so i can stomp down the street in time to the sass. Those songs seem born out of pure poetic frustration at the status quo.
In between songs they say how amazing it is to be here in Australia. How they never thought this would be a thing to happen. The crowd is beyond the expectations of even the members of said crowd,. The social media attendance list seemed small and there was not much talk of the impending show anywhere. These musicians were as real as you could get: independent and erudite. They had a message not muted or watered down by saturated media coverage. I would not be adverse to Girlpool getting far more media coverage than what they are getting now, more people need to be presented with something so expansive and rich in theme and substance. The rock critic Jessica Hopper says: ‘Us girls deserve more than one song. We deserve more than one pledge of solidarity.We deserve better songs than any boy will ever write about us.”
On a stormy night in Melbourne’s west, Girlpool provided all of what we deserved and more.