Girlpool played a killer basement show in West Philly - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Girlpool | Photo by Simon Klein

The first thing I noticed in entering Nico Nico Mansion on Saturday was the décor of the house. There was nothing on the walls, and no light fixtures, only bulbs. The house turned venue was experiencing its second show ever, and the hosts hadn’t had time to put any sort of bookshelf, art piece, or poster to cover anything or to make the house feel like home since moving in. Despite the stark surroundings, a very small, young crowd was abuzz to see a great basement show in West Philly.

The magic of the music environment in Philadelphia, and what makes it unique in some respects, is the community and quality of the basement scene. People around the living room were visibly excited for the show that they were going to see. Headlining this show Saturday were up and coming duo Girlpool. These two ladies have been heavily praised around the internet for their songwriting, and punk inspired harmonies. Included on the bill were a host of other great small bands including Philadelphia’s Free Cake for Every Creature, and Southern California’s Watercolor Paintings, that created an atmosphere of youthful exuberance, and sincerity.

Free Cake, fueled by their soft indie pop sensibilities, and lyrical confessions, set the mood of the night. The ethos of sincerity could be echoed throughout the crowded room, as people were attentive and interested in lead singer Katie Bennett’s every word. Free Cake’s songs written over soothing simple slide guitar, bass and drums, paint pictures of moving, a December parking garage, and being too old to be a punk rock prodigy, these are quaint stories with a 21st century edge, being instantly compelling, and relatable simultaneously.

Watercolor paintings were up next, and their sound was one of tight guitar riffs with some simple synth and bass. Playing songs off the album When You Move, Rebecca Redman created a pocket of California sunshine in the damp, cramped basement. Her set was interjected with comedic banter during tunings where she would tell stories that encapsulated the mood of the night. In this banter she admitted things like how the first time she went swimming in the ocean was on tour in Charleston recently, despite the fact that she lived in Santa Monica. It was these little personal exclamations that tied together the pop with the person to deliver a very likable and listenable package.

Girlpool rounded out the show, playing music off of their well received album Before The World Was Big. they tore through their songs at a fast pace, hitting every rhythmic strum, and harmony. Girlpool’s music is one of tight simplicity, which sounds just as present and full both live, and recorded. They started their set off with “Ideal World,” a track about being tranquilized and feeling safe in a self constructed surreal reality of safety. The track laid the mood for the rest of the set, as Girlpool began to play for the small crowd of a basement, telling stories of lamenting growing up, missing unknown strangers, and being static.

Both Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad were relaxed during the set and floated above their songs seemingly, loving the scene of the place. Halfway through the set they even attempted a half performed cover of a song by Wizard Apprentice, which even when it didn’t come to full fruition, Girlpool and the crowd laughed off and continued to enjoy the set. Even when things weren’t going positively perfect, the mood of the room made it seem fine. The current state of Girlpool is that they are often playing and selling out larger venues such as the upcoming show with Frankie Cosmos in August. For a band that laments missing how it felt “before the world was big,” hearing Girlpool play in a tiny basement made it feel pretty small.

Listen to the full sets from the show here!

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