By DUBRAY KINNEY
For The News-Letter
Girlpool, Alex G and Eskimeaux brought their tour to the Ottobar this past Friday for a number of sets featuring dreamy, noisy pop. The show also featured one of Baltimore’s local bands, Sitcom, who made an appearance as part of the opener.
Girlpool, a stripped-down punk band from California featuring guitarist Cleo Tucker and bassist Harmony Tividad, played a set reminiscent of their new home in Philadelphia. The band channeled a feeling that is distinctively new-Philly punk, drawing from the sounds of other bands of this genre like Swearin’, Radiator Hospital and Hop Along,
The first thing that was notable about their performance was the fact that the band has no drummer, giving the aforementioned stripped-down feel credibility and making the set feel remarkably intimate for a venue that was packed near capacity.
The songs played ranged from those off their debut self-titled EP in 2014 to those on their latest album, Before the World Was Big, released this year. Due to the limited number of tracks to their name, many of Girlpool’s songs were instantly recognized by the crowd. At a number of points throughout the night, shrieks and screams emerged from the audience during the opening chords of memorable songs.
Unfortunately the downside to Girlpool’s set was the fact that the audience seemed to be split into two categories — often the case when two headlining bands have similar yet somewhat different fans. While there were fans who had come to see every band of the night, there were also those who were there to see only one of the bands on the bill and after said band had finished, they moved to the bar. This hurt the Girlpool set which featured many quieter moments, including a song performed a cappella, which were undercut by chatter from the back of the venue.
However, this did not completely ruin the set, and Girlpool’s initial performance ended with cheers and applause that prompted the band to come back on stage for an encore.
Opening for Girlpool was another Philly resident known as Alex G, the stage name of Alex Giannascoli’s lo-fi bedroom pop turned fuzzy pop with references to the sounds of Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. While Alex G’s set featured songs from his wide range of releases dating back a number of years, it mainly focused on his two most recent and popular releases: 2014’s DSU and his major label debut this year with Domino Records, Beach Music.
One noteworthy element of the performance was Alex G’s stage presence. Throughout the show he turned his back on the audience during his guitar solos, nodding his head silently as his instrument spoke. At the end of every song the crowd cheered, and Alex G responded with an equally excited “Thanks!”.
As the set winded down, the two members of Girlpool came on stage to sing the backing vocals of the last song “Brite Boy” from Beach Music. The pair held hands as they sang and danced around the stage while Alex G tore into a quiet guitar solo.
“Bright boy I can help you / If you let me take your hand,” they sang.
A silence fell over the hall as everyone stood mesmerized, nodding their heads while Tividad and Tucker closed out the strong set.
Alex G was preceded by New York native Gabrielle Smith’s Eskimeaux, whose music is reminiscent of the bedroom pop that Alex G’s earlier projects contained. Eskimeaux’s set featured a mix of the two bigger releases within her catalogue: 2011’s recently reissued Two Mountains and O.K., her second album released this year.
Eskimeaux’s set was surprising in that it was a departure from the quieter sounds of the LPs. The live band aesthetic gave way to a much louder and more energetic sound than the recorded band had produced. Though not explicitly punk, the set’s liveliness rang the bells of the current North American slate of power-pop bands.