Last Friday night, the cozy Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden
at Scripps College hosted two distinctly un-cozy sets of snotty punk courtesy of
San Francisco’s Cold Beat and Los Angeles’ very own Girlpool.
“What?!” You might have just yelled out. “I would have gone
to that. Why are you telling me this now?”
Certainly a valid complaint, but
perhaps my rather glowing review of the event will convince you to be more
attentive to all the lovely musical events going down at the 5Cs. And, honestly, I already wrote a preview piece on Girlpool for last
year’s No-Chella Festival.
The show got off to a late start due to typical L.A. traffic,
but that didn’t matter once Girlpool finally arrived and put together their
(remarkably simple) rigs. The first thing to mention about them is indeed the
most obvious—there are no drums. The band consists solely of Cleo Tucker on
guitar and Harmony Tividad on bass, though they switched that up for a
song. That’s it.
In the hands of lesser songwriters, a guitar and a bass
could make for an awful, boring live show. However, Girlpool are not those
songwriters. The group uses the lack of drums to their advantage, playing off the
basic chemistry that only comes from two really close friends wailing on some
strings. While they often seem like a deconstructed take on bluesy garage rock, the
slower passages of tracks like “Plants and Worms” wouldn’t feel out of place at
a drone show opening for someone like Grouper.
Besides, the real point of Girlpool has little to do with
the instrumentation: It’s all in the vocals. Cleo and Harmony both know how to wail, and wail they do as they weave
their voices in and around incredibly catchy, whiny hooks and harmonies. I’d never really listened to their
recorded output before the show, but I somehow remembered almost every song
from their No-Chella set. They’re just that memorable.
Accompanied by lyrics
that explore feminism less as impersonal identity politics and more as the
genuine experience of having a female body, they’re the kind of band that punk
needs right now. Since signing to Wichita (the label that helped launch Cloud
Nothings and Waxahatchee, among others) earlier this year and receiving
coverage from massive sites like Pitchfork, their future’s only becoming brighter. In short, lose the drums; long live Girlpool.
The second (and last) set came from San Francisco’s Cold
Beat, a punchy new wave outfit headed up by Hannah Lew, formerly of Grass
Widow. Mostly playing tracks from this year’s excellent debut album Over Me, the band has their sweet
mixture of poppy post-punk down to a science. Lew’s soft, ethereal vocals
worked perfectly with the rather lo-fi audio setup, operating more as a
textural element than anything else. Combined with the rock-solid rhythm
section, it was a simply great set from a great band.
Following Girlpool’s emotional acrobatics, the audience
seemed a little restless, a mood on which Cold Beat were all too happy to capitalize as they whipped the crowd into an awesome (if slightly awkward) pit in the
middle of Scripps’ hidden garden. As people shuffled within the few square feet
that separated the band from the fountain in the center of the courtyard, it
became clear to me that perhaps the real star of the whole show was the space
itself, which I’d never seen used as a venue in my years here.
Nestled away in
its own little courtyard, the Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden has a certain natural charm that you don’t really
find at the Grove House or the Social Room in the SCC. It worked just as well
as a serene, moonlit background to Girlpool’s bloodletting as it did the
physical catharsis of the pit. I’d even venture to say an electronic show could
go down aplomb there with the right sound system. If anyone in Scripps Live
Arts is reading this, pay attention: Don’t let a venue like that go to waste.
Gage Taylor PO ’16 is majoring in media studies and philosophy. He is the electronic music director for the 5C radio station KSPC, and his first concert was NSYNC.