It was a sure-fire Ladies’ Night at Subterrannean last Thursday as three girl-powered bands graced the stage to play a diverse array of music!
The show’s first opener, a local band by the name of Bunny, started the show off with a hazy lo-fi sound and lyrics delicately laced with sarcasm. Bunny’s performance was pleasantly lethargic; laid-back instrumentals paired well with lead singer Jess Viscius’ crooning vocals. Viscius’ husky voice and nonchalant stage presence added a dreamy and meandering quality to the music- think of an Angel Olsen song on Xanax. Bunny’s lyrics are simple, but have an amusing ironic edge to them. Songs like “Let Me Be Your Dog” or “I’m Just a Girl” feature tongue-in-cheek lyrics that poke fun at tried-and-untrue stereotypes of female frailty, dependency, and hopeless romanticism. Throughout their set, Bunny maintained a self-awareness of their “sad girl” aesthetic, which made them an intriguing band to see and listen to.
Washington, D.C. post-punk artist Sneaks was next to play. In regard to energy level, Sneaks was a departure from Bunny’s low-key performance. Eva Moolchan’s hybrid spoken-word-songs are backed by bass-lines and up-tempo electronic beats. The varying rhythms articulated by the vocals, bass, and percussion in Sneaks’ songs complement each other well. Moolchan’s music and lyrics are experimental and purposefully minimalistic. Her songs seemed intent on encouraging the audience to read between the lines of her cryptic lyrics in order to derive meaning/meaningfulness. Despite this intent, I personally found Sneaks to fall short of this goal. Moolchan employed verve and plenty of passion to add appeal to her performance, but in the end the songs were too sparse and repetitive to grab my interest.
Last but not least, Chasity Belt took the stage. Hailing from Washington state, Chastity Belt carries a west coast, soft grunge feel in their style and sound. Lead vocalist Julia Shapiro’s gruff shout-singing reverberates through the room, with the solid support of guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm. While Chastity Belt wasn’t particularly chatty during their set, there was a distinct camaraderie between the musicians that was nice to see.
During their set, Chastity Belt played songs mainly from their new album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone. This new album stands apart musically from their previous albums Time to Go Home and No Regerts, which showcase lively instrumentals and delightfully ~transgressive~ lyrics that shrug off conservative notions of femininity (see “James Dean,” “Healthy Punk”, “Cool Slut”). The music in I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is a little more relaxed and melodious, which matches introspective lyrics that capture feelings of aimlessness and futility in the face of life’s mundanities:
I like to have fun
Stop making sense
Start acting dumb
I wanna have some self-control
I wanna be sincere
But nothing’s ever really free
When you’re living in fear”
(“Used to Spend”)
New or old album, Chastity Belt’s lyrics are straightforward. Most of the time, they read pretty much like a drunk girl’s morose inner dialogue in the midst of a typically unimpressive Friday night scene: “I’ve had a drink and ate some stuff / Now I’m already bored / A couple of bros said some shit I’m choosing to ignore” (“Complain”).
There is certainly a crude charisma to Chastity Belt’s blunt poetry. Lacking any figurative embellishments, their lyrics are clever precisely because they are not trying to be. The words, and the sentiments behind them, are refreshingly honest and relatable. I always come away from their music feeling a little more empathized with and a little more empowered.