Girlschool 2018 At The Bootleg, Friday February 2nd 2018
Girlschool, the annual all-women festival, gets bolder and bigger each year, and this new edition was packed with stars with a series of new (to me) very promising talents. Friday night, the first day of the 3-day festival happening at the Bootleg, was filled with surprises. If Sleater Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein was announced, if Dum Dum Girls’ Kristin Kontrol was also supposed to be playing with a group of children, other unexpected stars showed up: Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno made a surprise appearance, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O also came on stage with the kids!
Girlschool, which was founded by Anna Bulbrook (The Airborne Toxic Event, The Bulls) is dedicated to provide a safe space for women, and if the idea feels totally a-propos in this Weinstein-Trumpera, the festival has been happening for a few years. It all started with a thoughtful conversation between Carrie Brownstein and writer and poet Morgan Parker who talked about many subjects, from space and creativity, to their different projects and influences, activism politics, feminism and what it means to ‘resist’ In this Trump era – although I don’t think they pronounced his name even once — ‘if you are not in the Black Panthers’ said Parker.
But because Girlschool is a mix of different female expressions of all horizons, the performances went from ‘Rap Like a Girl’ Desi Mo and the Dogg, her team of dancer-rappers, right away bringing the energy of the room up with their bold dance moves, to a sweet group of kids led by Kristin Kontrol and the amazing performance of Boyfriend. The evening was as diverse and eclectic as it was surprising… and surprises, when they are as good as these ones, are always a lot of fun.
The performances of the night alternated between the Banana Stage and the Cherry stage, and there was music for every taste in the venue. After rapper DesiMo, the ethereal electronica of Drum & Lace (aka Sofia Hultquist) tipped the mood toward a more cinematic ambiance, with two female dancers dressed in red from head to toes. Her eerie vocals oscillated between Eenia, Madonna and ancient laments, although the industrial beats surely came. A bit later, Cuesta Loeb’s frontwoman, the daughter of world-renown jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb and Spanish singer-songwriter Carmen Cuesta, soothed the night and even used a ukulele during her performance of multi-influenced loud dream pop.
Kristin Kontrol surrounded herself with very cute kids for a slow burn while little girls were singing and dancing with tambourines… and you have to be careful when you invite kids on stage because they will unavoidably steal the show. It was absolutely adorable to hear them sing ‘Bhang Bhang I’m a Burnout’, but, as I said, the night was full of surprises and the unannounced Best Coast duo (Bethany and Bruno) came on stage to do ‘When I’m With You’, followed by Karen O, also totally unexpected, which made people scream… ‘Hi,… tonight!…with the kids’ said Karen before a very upbeat ‘Date with the Night’.
At this point, it was difficult to say who had stolen the show, the night was packed with stars, but I would vote for this little girl, who was dancing in front of me in a red top and black tutu. She was about 3 and had dance moves of her own, demonstrating a complete independent spirit and mind. Her proud father was encouraging her but she was on her own trip, completely unaware she was dancing on stage with Karen O.
This could have ended then, what could have topped this? But we also got to see Atlanta native and very soulful Mereba, who enchanted the audience with her delicate pop-soul-R&B melodies and her superb voice, and Girlschool ended with a boom with Boyfriend, who took everyone by surprise with her rap cabaret act. She had dancers, more costume changes than Lady Gaga in her entire career, and she was rapping about men using a vocabulary and a flow to make every Rolling Loud rapper very jealous… She was bold and hilarious and kept her hair rollers the entire time, from her bride dress to her stripper costumes while rapping her sexually provocative words… She certainly got some attention, that’s an understatement, but what better way to finish this first women-empowering night of Girlschool with this all-swag girl?