Sidney Gish | photo by Makena Duffy for WXPN
Sidney Gish energizes fans at PhilaMOCA
This past Wednesday, singer-songwriter Sidney Gish kicked off her US-Summer tour with a lively audience at PhilaMOCA. While Gish hasn’t released a new project since 2017’s No Dogs Allowed, the critically acclaimed album clearly still deeply resonates with teens and twenty-somethings coming of age in our tumultuous time, as exemplified by the sheer enthusiasm the crowd demonstrated.
The show opened with a set from Another Michael, a Philadelphia-based four-piece whose unique sound merges elements of garage rock, indie pop, and electronic music. This mix of influences describes my favorite aspect about their set: their musical diversity. For a live remix of their song “Go There,” spacey synthesizer embellishments were played over a minimal, electronic drum beat, creating a futuristic and electronic soundscape. But for the next song they played, “Football,” the group pivoted in a more indie rock direction, jamming on their guitars while singing about skipping gym class in school and having an existential crisis (relatable!). However, this sonic diversity did not make set the feel disjointed and awkward; rather, it felt smooth and exciting, as if the band was bringing together their diverse musical influences and showing the audience the extent of their artistry.
Since Another Michael crowded the stage with four band members, two synthesizers, and several guitars, the sole presence of Sidney Gish on stage was slightly jarring. The 22-year-old initially stepped on to the stage to set up her guitar pedals, seeming a little taken aback by the sudden whoops that erupted from the audience as she did so. Once Gish began to play, her eagerness to be performing in front of the audience—and their reciprocal excitement to be seeing her live—became apparent. Gish took breaks between to directly express this sentiment by thanking the audience for coming out and by cracking jokes in between songs. “I love to tune instruments, I like really do,” she said in a valley-girl accident while re-adjusting her capo. Then she paused. “Wait, but actually I do. I love it.”
While Gish’s instrumental setup was fairly minimal—just her, some guitar pedals and loops, and a drum track—her stage presence captivated the room. Gish exceeded in varying the dynamics of her songs, getting quieter during the verses to create more intimacy between her and the crowd and then ramping up her volume during the chorus to create an explosion of sound throughout the space. Personally speaking, I find Gish’s lyrical content to be the most compelling part of her music, and her setup perfectly served this aspect of her music. Gish was not overpowered by big guitars or drums; rather, she controlled every instrumental aspect on stage with her loop pedals and poured her heart out to her fans. The audience, in turn, hollered back every lyric and romped around the venue; it was apparent that the message behind Gish’s music was just as important to them as the music itself.
Gish’s setlist, which she had written down on her forearm, pulled mostly from her sophomore album, No Dogs Allowed, only adding in a few fan favorites from Ed Buys Houses. She also performed a lively cover of “Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)” by the Talking Heads, complete with a funky drum track and lively chord changes. While she admitted that she wasn’t sure if she knew all of the lyrics are not, she was still amped to be performing the song, declaring that “I have the lyrics on my phone in case I need them, so let’s go!”. Gish’s upbeat attitude made her set that much more enjoyable, and when built upon her lively guitar playing and impactful lyrics, she radiated a joyful energy to everyone seeing her perform. “I love making music on my computer,” she told her fans before her last song, “but I’m so excited to get to play songs live and see new things”. Indeed, everyone else in the space reciprocated this excitement in seeing Gish perform, and I can’t wait to see where her music takes her after this tour.
I’m Filled With Steak, And Cannot Dance
I Eat Salads Now
Friday Night Placebo
This Must Be The Place (Talking Heads Cover)
Rat of the City
Presumably Dead Arm