On Wednesday night, after a full set from Palm, Girlpool took the stage to play a nearly sold out show that was equal parts glittery hair clips and guitar shredding.
With only the first couple chords of their song “123″ behind them, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad confirmed to the PBR holding, head-nodding patrons of the Larimer Lounge what they already suspected: the next sonic hour would lay host to a coat check on anything outside of pure emotion.
After one sweeping look at the room’s wide-eyed occupants, this also became abundantly clear to me. It was going to be an emotional performance.
If you are a fan of early Liz Phair, have been told by your therapist that you are the “sensitive type” or simply enjoy good music then you’ll likely find yourself nodding your head along to Girlpool’s “folk-punk” melodies. The group formed in the pair’s teenage years, when they were living amidst the Los Angeles DIY scene. Since then, it developed an ever-increasing following.
In their first performance in Denver since 2015, Girlpool played many tracks from their debut full-length album, Before the World Was Big, and from their recent sophomore release, Powerplant, a collection of twangy, introspective ballads.
When I saw them live two years ago, the band was in the middle of their first major tour. This time around they had a more confident, and perhaps more somber, stage presence. This could be due in part to Powerplant’s particularly vulnerable content. In “It Gets More Blue,” the stand out line “I faked global warming just to get closer to you,” refers to the pain that accompanies changing oneself for another, something which resonates universally.
Despite this seriousness, there is still a palpable sense of a new maturity — in the music itself, with the incorporation of a drummer, and in the performers.
The band spoke little outside of their songs, but when they did, it was like they were addressing a roomful of friends.
Tividad even crowd-sourced Halloween costume ideas, only to confess her plan to embody a punny take on “the Holy Ghost.”
Girlpool’s music is both deadpan and intensely poetic as it explores themes of young womanhood, romance and existentialism with a nursery rhyme like eeriness. But what makes the band profoundly exciting, and differentiates them from their peers, is the unmistakable goosebump-inducing magic that bubbles up whenever the duo harmonizes. It’s an effect that is now their signature.
After a generous set and much applause, the duo appeased the room with a one song encore, “Chinatown,” a tune off their first album. When all was said and done, the impression was of a group therapy session for the broken hearted and the young.
As people poured out onto the lamp-lit streets, I left the show feeling a little lighter — and glad that I went.
Contact arts writer Camille Sauers at firstname.lastname@example.org.