Girlpool played to a devoted audience at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom on April 25, rounding out a tour supported by Australian rising star, Hatchie with show opener, Gemma. Supporting the release of 2019’s What Chaos is Imaginary, the show displayed the dynamic range of genre across Girlpool’s records, along with the duo’s knack to look at home on any stage, and make it their own.
Waiving an introduction, the duo, supported by a second guitar, drums and keyboard, dove into “Lucy’s” from What Chaos is Imaginary. The slow, pounding pace driven by full, distorted guitar and an alternating kick and snare quickly enveloped the room, bringing people closer to the stage.
Girlpool began as two teenagers funneling their vulnerabilities and existential quandaries into a piece of pure, self-expression, which became 2015’s Before the World Was Big. Since then, the duo has blossomed with expanding musical sophistication as Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have gotten a little older, and a little more grounded in perspective. Changes and self-realization are included in that journey, including Tucker’s coming out as trans in 2017.
For a band which started as two people playing instruments together with an ambiguous, co-lead syntax and relying on harmonies shouted over each other or shared in a whisper, Tucker’s now-deeper voice has found a new space to sit among the vocal mix. Rocking into “Hire,” Tucker shouts into the mic, their voice unbounded, cracking and passionate.
The set traversed the different styles across Girlpool’s albums. Returning to 2017’s Powerplant, the band teetered on a punk-inspired shoegaze, in the space where The Cranberries and The Breeders dwell. “It Gets More Blue” featured grunge-y bass lines and monotone vocals sang in unison, breaking out of the self-imposed trance during the louder, punchier moments.
Tucker and Tividad’s energy ebbed and flowed with the tone of song. Balancing Tividad’s often cooing, softly delivered lines, Tucker was often moving about the stage, always looking to be on the verge of vocally exploding with angst or excitement. Often checking in with one another on stage via smiles during songs or stage banter, the deep friendship the two have with each other enriched the experience. Even in front of an audience, the two looked as if they were just messing around with each other in their living room, experiencing the joy of musical connection for the first time.
Touring with Girlpool and developing a large fanbase of her own, Australian-based Hatchie supported the show with her signature blend of dream-pop and shoegaze. She’s drawn from genre-definers like the Cocteau Twins and has since joined a talented pool of female-led indie groups including Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, and of course, Girlpool. Deserving a mention is show opener and Brooklyn-based electro-soul group, Gemma. Helmed by Ava Luna’s Felicia Douglass along with guitarist Erik Gundel, the group delivered genre-bending dance energy reminiscent of The Talking Heads.
Ending with an encore including a couple of crowd favorites, fans left the venue repeating a favorite line from Before the World Was Big’s “Chinatown”: “Do you feel restless when you realize you’re alive?” As they play stages of all sizes, Girlpool is always able to make it seem as if you’re a guest in their home, listening to music and laughing at their stories. This tour will continue in New Jersey as it moves southwest and ends in Europe. See them at a venue near you.
*All photographs taken by Jazmin Beltran