Real Live Action

U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls

w/ Group Vision

author
Joshua Azizi
photography
Alistair Henning

Meg Remy’s long-running U.S. Girls project is far away from its noisy lo-fi pop beginnings, but anyone interested in getting their ears blown out got their fix from opener Group Vision. They began their set with droning vocal echoes before launching into an exhilarating burst of thrashing noise, which earned them plenty of cheers from the audience.

U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine

They treated the venue to 30 minutes of blistering, nihilistic no-wave punk that was as uncompromising as it was, at times, oddly danceable. Their strongest moments came when they found themselves locked in a groove, recalling the twisted pop-hardcore of Brainiac but with a heavier, monochromatic sound palette. In contrast, their slower songs tended to drone on with few hooks to captivate.

U.S. Girls’ set mostly consisted of songs from their new record, In a Poem Unlimited, in which Remy collaborated with twenty musicians to twist the pop music of the twentieth century — particularly disco, soul, new wave and even hip hop — into something sharp, lively and original. With seven other musicians on stage, Remy gave these songs the dynamic live treatment they deserve. Guitar solos blared, a saxophone player stole the show more than once and the interplay between Remy and the backing vocalists perfectly embodied the drama and emotions contained in these songs.

U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine

While the music of U.S. Girls is rooted in the past, its lyrics are a direct comment on the ills of the present. Abuse, harassment and political anger are at the forefront of these songs — the backing band is just a sugar coating. In one of the night’s most striking moments, Remy and a backing vocalist stood side by side in silence with their hands folded and their eyes looking down, much like how one would stand at a funeral. It was a brief moment of silence for the women in Remy’s songs, who’ve suffered nothing less than trauma and pain from the actions of men.

Highlights included the R&B shuffle of “L-Over” and the vaporous disco of “Window Shades,” but nothing else towered over the show as much as “Time” did. An extended new wave-funk workout à la Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, the song threw the crowd into a frenzy before slowly dissolving into a cacophony of noise and feedback that blared while the band walked off stage. As concertgoers screamed for an encore, the feedback faded and the soft, synth-driven theme from Twin Peaks began to play from the speakers. For most other artists, this reference would’ve been yet another wink to a TV show that’s been name-dropped to the point of cliché — but when Remy used it, it felt more like a tribute to Laura Palmer, the teenage protagonists whose murder and sexual abuse is the focus of the show.

Eventually Remy and a backing vocalist returned to perform a solo-guitar rendition of “Poem,” a beautiful song that pleads the world to do what’s right and learn to change for the better. As the only song on In a Poem Unlimited that’s driven more by hope than anger, it ended the night on a bittersweet, optimistic note.

U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls||Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder Magazine
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Kellarissa

w/ Hello Blue Roses, Devours

author
Zoe Power
Poster Courtesy of
Kellarissa

Some shows are best served with spilled beers, tacky floors and a neighbour’s moshing ponytail whipping sweat into your eyes. Sometimes you want to settle into a plush red seat, drink in hand, and sit back to take in the artistry.

The latter was the case at the Red Gate Revue on Thursday as Kellarissa took to the stage for the triumphant launch of Ocean Electro, the third album (and first in seven years) from Larissa Loyva’s solo project. The launch was supported by a diverse mix of local talent which stood testament to Loyva’s long-term and varied involvement in Vancouver’s music scene.

Sydney Hermant opened the evening with a solo Hello Blue Roses set. Hermant is one half of this project, alongside partner Dan Bejar, but alone she capably embodied their sound through dexterous juggling of guitar, flute and vocal loops. Hermant’s soaring folk voice, though, took centre stage, toeing the line between familiarity and heartbreak, and wedding offbeat literary phrasing with the shape and tone of ballad form.

The second opener was a dramatic change of pace. Devours is the solo project of Jeff Cancade, who approached his synth-laden beat-making station in a sequined jacket and thick, fierce, glittered brows, teamed with football shorts and sneakers – this was an artist who was not here to stand still. Although camp samples and heavy disco beats seemed an unlikely match for the theatre-style venue, Cancade skilfully built his set to showcase candid lyrics and earnest vocals in equal measure with euphoric, glitchy hooks. By closing track “Late Bloomer,” he had half the audience enrolled in his percussion section, and had built ample energy and anticipation for Kellarissa’s set.  

And, from the moment Lovya took the stage – resplendent in a structured snakeskin jumpsuit, flanked by a quartet of backup singers in neck-to-wrist golden capes – it was clear that this set would not hold back on bells and whistles. The format was a stark departure from the one-person shows on which Kellarissa has built her reputation: not a loop pedal in sight, the orchestration relied on backing tracks and the choral (also shimmying) coordination of her fellow vocalists.

This meant the set followed not just the track listing, but also the acoustic palate of Ocean Electro very precisely – until, that is, the addition of unwelcome bells and whistles five songs in, when the stage’s smoke machines progressed from setting ambience to triggering a full-blown evacuation alarm. As the bells kept ringing, the track kept playing, and for a moment it seemed as though the whole spectacle could fall apart. But Kellarissa rose to the occasion: voices swelled and they saw out the song with renewed vigour, finishing “Mirabel” to a standing ovation that continued out onto the sidewalk.

When the show returned after a half hour interlude featuring a requisite appearance from the City of Vancouver’s fine emergency professionals, the strength of voice Lovya had summoned to drown out the fire bells didn’t fade away. Instead, she stepped more assuredly into her role as lead vocalist. In the penultimate song, “Hey Hey Rosé,” the ensemble reached their full potential as Lovya’s soaring lead converged with deftly layered backing in a choral totality powerful beyond the sum of its parts. If Kellarissa envisioned ‘ocean electro’ as a genre defined by ‘femme psych electronica’ – this was surely it.