Day Two of the second annual Girlschool festival started with a talking circle and activism discussion for those who arrived early at 4:00 p.m. While the “Bra Factory” main entrance was filled with avid listeners still around 6:50 p.m., the crowd seemed fairly sparse for the first couple of music acts, which began at 7:00 p.m.
A “special guest” was slotted to begin at 7:00 at the Cherry (main) Stage, an electro-pop duo by the name Lesser Pieces. They performed soft electronic songs like “Never Thinking of You” and “Texas” to an intimate crowd in the large room. While the majority of their set was soft and dreamy, the crowd got into some of their more upbeat, danceable tracks as they swayed side to side. They also performed a new song for the crowd, “Ghost of You.”
At the Banana (bar) stage, a young trio by the name Pinky Pink were set up and poised to go, as people filtered in from the Cherry Stage. They patiently awaited for the sounds of Lesser Pieces to subside before diving into their ’60s-inspired garage rock set. In this all-female trio, the drummer was also the lead singer, and boy could she belt. Although these women looked so young, (the X on their hands was a tip-off that they were at least under 21), could they rock! The guitarist and bassist each held their own, as they played some tricky, fast paced riffs while remaining completely in sync. It was quite entertaining to watch the bass player, as her expressive face let the crowd know just how hard she was pushing herself. The small room started to fill in as the audience got into the surf rock sounds. They performed angsty tracks like “Ram Jam,” “Spiders” and the impressive “Hot Tears.”
The sounds of Mary Lattimore’s angelic harp playing drew the crowd back into the Cherry Stage. The festival-goers took the opportunity to sit down towards the back of the room as they intently watched Lattimore assemble various loops, starting with dreamy arpeggios and building melodies and unique sounds on top of them. The sound reverberated throughout the room, and layers were constantly being added and removed — a high-pitched tremolo here, a knock on the wood of the harp there, electronically manipulated notes and unexpected warped sounds kept the audience watching and listening intently.
The mood was very different back at the Banana Stage, as a duo, Nick and Navi and DJ shared some serious island vibes with the crowd. Sporting marijuana-printed flowing outfits and with vivid colorful background panels, the music matched the visuals as they performed dub and calypso-inspired hip-hop. The crowd really responded to Nick and Navi’s stage presence; they danced with each other and just appeared to be having a great time on stage, letting loose. They performed carefree tracks like “Holiday,” sharing that we should all “celebrate every day like it’s a holiday, and their final song had everyone singing on repeat, even after their (short) performance was over, “all the boys wanna come to my yard.”
While the Banana Stage would be reserved for mostly hip-hop acts for the rest of the night, the most rocking band to take the stage at Girlschool were getting ready over at the Cherry Stage. A.W., formerly Allison Weiss, gave those who were waiting for more indie rock what they wanted. They opened with “The Sound,” which was very Killers/Cage the Elephant inspired with a slow buildup and backing “Oooh” vocals. A.W. was extremely charming and personable on stage as she took the time to share a bit about each song she was about to perform, often adding funny anecdotes about how drinking a beer on stage is a sign of a relatable band member and how most her songs are about love and anxiety. “You’re so relatable!” one audience member shouted between songs, ensuing some laughter from the audience. Another rocking song, “Motorbike” was prefaced with being a love song… “this next one’s about my motorcycle… I put it on my record because I’m the boss,” A.W. shared. She also talked about how pop stars like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears may have been snubbed in her youth, but how much she appreciates them now. Her song “Back To Me” was inspired by Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” which she found saddening because her baby didn’t come back. There were clearly some fans in the audience, as several people could be seen singing along to the lyrics.
By the time Amber Coffman took the Cherry Stage, there was quite a crowd on the main floor. This time, the former Dirty Projectors member’s band included Madame Gandhi on the drums. She opened the set with the soulful “All to Myself.” The crowd watched intently through her set, which included songs off her latest album, City of No Reply including “No Coffee,” “Dark Night” the sultry “If You Want My Heart” and more. She closed her set with her collaboration with Major Lazer, “Get Free,” which Coffman shared was the first performance ever of the song.
The final performance at the Banana Stage by Somalian refugee sisters known as Faarrow was an inspiration to the audience. They performed original tracks like “Chasing Highs” but the highlight of their set was a cover of The Fugees “Ready Or Not.”
The Cherry Stage was the most packed it had been all weekend for Shirley Manson and the Girlschool Choir’s performance. With rumors of a special guest appearance, this set was not to be missed. Manson had quite the entourage on stage, complete with a conductor, string quartet, keyboardist, bassist and drummer, not to mention the Girlschool choir, who were all in the center audience. Manson gave a special shoutout to her Garbage bandmates who were not in attendance and shared about what an extraordinary experience it was to play with a room full of women. She also gave a call out to her conductor and arranger, who got all the talented female musicians together. After “Cherry Lips,” there was a slight pause… Manson exclaimed, “Amy smashed a snare?!” to which the audience cheered and shouted “fuck yeah!” in admiration of the vigor the drummer used. But the crowd really went wild when the popular “Only Happy” began, and everyone started dancing and jumping around. But the true highlight of the night was when Mason introduced special guest Fiona Apple and invited her on stage to perform Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” to close the set.
Shirley Manson and the Girlschool Choir Setlist:
1. What Girls Are Made Of
2. Bleed Like Me
3. Cherry Lips
4. Trick is to Keep Breathing
5. Only Happy
6. You Don’t Own Me (featuring Fiona Apple)
While the 30-minute set from Manson had the crowd wanting more, there’s still more excitement to come on Sunday’s performance including more special guest appearances and performances by Jay Som and Lauren Ruth Ward.
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna