girl in red @ Brooklyn Steel

by | Mar 23, 2022 | Shows | 0 comments

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

Ah, to be young again. I can’t go back, but I can feel a little bit of that fresh-faced excitement when I listen to young singer songwriters like Marie Ulven aka girl in red. And to really recapture a bit of my youth and the feelings I had when I went to my first big queer/queer adjacent events (Sleater Kinney, May 1999 if anyone was wondering), I just needed to be in the midst of the crowd on the first of two sold out nights at Brooklyn Steel. The energy and exuberance was radiating out of every single fan in that room, a palpable feeling of youthful wonder and queer joy everywhere you turned.

 

Music like this is what I craved when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, living in a world that had just recently begun to heal from Matthew Shepard’s murder (something that profoundly affected me at the time but that I couldn’t find the words to talk about until well into my 30s) and was not quite ready for such bold, open and unabashed queerness as the norm with no one batting an eye over it. (Yes, I know plenty of people in certain parts of this country and the world still bat an eye, but that’s why artists like this and these nights are so important.)

 

My original plans to be in the photo pit then fade to the back changed and I ended up having to improvise with my point and shoot camera and phone from within the crowd, but I see now that this was the only way to really get the full experience, feel the excitement and yes, maybe even feel a little bit young again. I found queer punk at a pretty early age and for that I’m forever grateful, but it gave me an outlet that was more political than personal, and I didn’t always have a place for my feelings of yearning and heartbreak when I was younger other than through straight artists that I creatively re-imagined lyrics by.

 

Like many LGBT folks who are now middle aged, I didn’t get to experience a major artist singing so boldy and specifically about her queerness, writing songs about things I could directly relate to. The political statements were great and I’m thankful I learned so much from them, but a lot of times I just wanted love songs very clearly from one girl to another, and not having to pretend in secret or hide the records on my shelves. I’m so beyond happy that these younger fans have this outlet now, a mirror for their feelings and songs they can sing along to without having to hide how they feel or change pronouns; they can just be themselves right out in the open, the way it should have always been.

 

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

 

Ulven is a great songwriter who has a knack for crafting deeply personal indie pop earworms, leaning even more into her pop sensibilities and honing her production skills on her debut album if i could make it go quiet. The set was comprised of almost the entirety of the album, but included many of her earlier songs also, the ones that helped establish not only her fanbase but her song writing prowess. The early songs like “we fell in love in october,” “girls,” “bad idea!” and “dead girl in the pool.” have amassed huge play counts on Spotify etc and it was exciting to get to hear them live and fleshed out as they are from a more lo-fi place and were recorded by Ulven alone. (This era of her music was also compared to C86 by The Guardian which I actually had never thought of before but think is super spot on.) The only thing I can say I was surprised by was the omission of “summer depression.”

 

And while I knew she’s a fantastic songwriter, I also learned how strong a performer she is seeing her in person. (Previously I had only seen her KEXP live session so I went in not really having a huge frame of reference of what to expect.) She goes hard and though she plays music more on the pop end of the spectrum, she has the energy and presence of some of the best hardcore front people or hell, an entire punk band, bursting out of her. She really made the songs come alive and never seemed to stay still for a single moment, running and jumping all over the place for the entire set (ah yes, to be young again!) with a zeal that was infectious and beaming out across the room. She had plenty of witty, funny and endearing stage banter between songs too, engaging with fans throughout the entire performance.

 

And speaking of the fans, it seems very clear that she genuinely cares about them based on her back and forth with the crowd throughout the night. She interacted often with them, answering their calls to her and reading off the various signs being held up saying, “I love them, keep them coming,” taking a phone to shoot a video from stage, and even inviting one fan up to play guitar on “i’ll die anyway” (after said fan held up a sign asking to play).

 

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

 

During “bad idea!” she stopped the song immediately upon seeing someone was in distress and when the fan gave the okay, she started the band back up again only for the fan to signal once more so the song stopped again. Once all was confirmed well, the song kicked back in and Ulven took a leap off the barrier to crowd surf…which didn’t quite end as well as she hoped it would because she went down pretty quickly (though was unhurt) rather than riding the full wave towards the middle of the room. She finished the song from the crowd and started a tender mosh pit in the process (I say “tender” because I have been in some borderline violent pits in my day and this was the total opposite). After the song was done she immediately, but lovingly, sassed the crowd for not catching her, declaring “I said give me your hands not your phones!” as many of the fans were filming in front and too distracted to catch a crowd surfer (I was a few people back so was not in range to catch her), but all was well and all was love when she was lifted over the barrier to return to the stage to finish the rest of the set.

 

No matter the song or era, every fan sang along word for word to each and every song, a level of dedication I don’t often see even in the most ardent of fans at the shows I generally find myself at. I think that is a testament to how honest and raw her lyrics are. (Ulven has stated she does not like the description “vulnerable.”) She paints the full picture and doesn’t hold back; her fans connect deeply to that. And again, the fact that they can see themselves, their lives, and most importantly, their feelings, reflected in her words is what makes them so devoted to her.

 

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

From night two, where the stage diving went slightly better.

 

Also from night two

 

Between work and this blog, I go to shows almost every single night of the week (26 shows by the time March is over). Many of them fade to the back of my mind afterwards and others stick around longer but don’t make a deeper lasting impression. This show was not one of those nights; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I left the venue. I can’t recapture my youth and I can’t go back to tell the weird little baby queer I was to not be so sad and angsty because something much better is coming later on down the line, but I can be incredibly thankful that we have all come so far and that we can gather together in moments of fun and joy, the purest act of resistance to the pain of this world that exists. It’s easy to feel jaded and there’s plenty of sadness/hurt to go around for all of us. But to be amongst a primarily queer crowd at a sold out show, being uncompromisingly themselves and singing along to someone who really speaks to them, to all of us, was a reminder of why I’m still here, why I never gave up even when I really wanted to. Truly a gift I didn’t know I needed.

 

Scroll down for pics of the show/setlist (photos by Kate Hoos)

 

 

 

girl in red

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

girl in red at Brooklyn Steel

Help support independent journalism, donate to FTA