If there is one word that is overused when describing concert experiences, it’s “magical.” Experiences and emotions are subjective, yet everyone seems to come back to that word. I agree that there is a certain atmosphere to be found at concerts that can’t be found anywhere else, but I believe that the affects found in a Girlpool concert are in a category of their own. Girlpool’s music takes emotions that are difficult to describe and puts them in an accurate, concise form of music that makes one think, “Wow. Why couldn’t I think of that when it’s so straightforward?” Taking those sentiments to a small venue like The Haunt makes the experience personal by forcing one to address neglected, bottled up feelings, creating a truly magical experience.
Girlpool opened their show with “123,” the first track off their newest album Powerplant. While the song is already gentle, guitarist Cleo Tucker started off the song more delicately, creating a powerful start. Bassist Harmony Tividad joined Tucker in a way so unnoticeable that the song’s tenderness was not lost, even at the more powerful parts of the chorus. The lyrics — “Looking pretty at the wall is my mistake in love installed” — carry enough impact in the album, but when it comes to a live setting, Girlpool has deciphered a way to not only carry those same emotions, but amplify them. Throughout all of the songs they played, Tucker and Tividad constantly looked to and followed each other, making it obvious that as musicians they were used to each other and had no trouble playing together. However, in between songs, Harmony would constantly say playfully pointless things to Cleo, such as “hey Cleo, what’s up? so what’s up?” Cleo, on the other hand, asked the audience for a ride to New York City and continued to interact with the audience in similar ways. The duo’s dynamic proves that in addition to their bond as musicians, Harmony and Cleo share a strong bond with each other. This combination is what enables them to so easily deliver difficult emotions in their rawest form.
After playing “123,” Girlpool went on to play most of Powerplant, but in all of the songs they added a keyboard/saxophone player. Powerplant is different from Girlpool’s other albums in that it was the first to introduce a drummer, and taking it to the stage with another addition would seem to stray from their signature simplicity, but, surprisingly, this bold addition fit in perfectly with the album. At times, Cleo played saxophone solos, but none of this ever interfered with the sentiments and atmosphere that had been originally envisioned by Harmony and Cleo when they wrote Powerplant.
As the concert continued with Harmony and Cleo poking jokes at each other and the audience, the two announced that they were about to play their last song, which was “Static Somewhere.” They played song as carefully and emotively as the rest of their songs, and considering it was their last track, I was slightly disappointed that most of the songs they had played were from Powerplant, with only two from Before the World Was Big. “Static Somewhere” delivered, but it was obvious that the crowd was not expecting that song to be the last of the night. After Girlpool left the stage, the audience chanted “one more song!” along with “do ‘Chinatown’!” and “do ‘Cherry Picking’!” After some suspenseful moments, Harmony and Cleo returned to the stage.
As soon as the audience heard the opening chords to “Chinatown,” everyone cheered. The melancholy and nostalgia carried by the track are enough to bring one to tears sometimes. As the pair sang “Do you feel restless when you realize you’re alive?” I looked around and noticed that a handful of people in the audience had begun to cry. At the line “I am nervous for tomorrow and today,” I looked around once more to see that the number of crying audience members had increased. There are certain lines in “Chinatown” that hit home for different people. “If I told you I loved you, would you take it the wrong way?” does it for some, and “If I loved myself, would I take it the wrong way?” does it for others. “Chinatown” is the track that Girlpool has packed the most emotions into, and when played live, those emotions go from being felt by one listener to a whole venue, creating an unmatched, beautiful atmosphere. After they finished playing “Chinatown,” Girlpool went on to play their very last song — “Cherry Picking.”
Just like “Chinatown,” “Cherry Picking” is filled with emotions. As they played the opening chords, the audience cheered for the track they were hoping to hear. “Cherry Picking” did not get more people to cry, but rather to sing along. It lifted everyone, though the song is not about anything happy. I never thought I’d see a room so happily singing “’Cause lovers turn to strangers/ everyone always has to go,” but I think there is something positive to be felt in knowing not only that others share these thoughts and emotions, but that a song exists as a monument to all of these normal, but hidden, sentiments.
Girlpool has never lacked raw, unfiltered emotions, but I did not think it possible to take them and make them have an even greater impact on people. In a venue full of crying people, it was normal to simply feel. It was normal to feel sad, it was normal to feel happy, it was normal to feel lonely, nervous, anxious, or anything else. I don’t know whether I cried, but I definitely felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time, and that was full: full of not only my own emotions, but reassurance that other people also felt a whole spectrum of emotions. If anything, in their albums Girlpool teaches one how to feel, and in playing live, causes everyone to take in each other’s unspoken experiences, which is magical.
Viri Garcia is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org