Going to a lot of shows in New York, you can easily get wrapped up in style and theatrics. Artists can throw everything but the kitchen sink into their performance, burying musicianship under all the fluff. And, sure, sometimes an over the top show hits the spot but, then, an act like U.S. Girls comes to town and reminds you that music is a craft, not just an opportunity to showboat.
Starting off the midnight show at Baby’s All Right, Gold Dime shook the small room with their amorphous incantations. It takes a certain level of open-mindedness to casually listen to noise project like Gold Dime on your own, but, live and with a good sound system, they can steamroll your senses into mush. Do you need to know what’s going on? No. But that doesn’t make their noisy, primal jams any less hair-raising. The moans, groans and roars of singer Andrya Ambro, like Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, take lead like a witch doctor and hypnotize you with her repetitive chants and undulating vocals.
Waiting for U.S. Girls to take the stage, Baby’s filled up fast with the most non-Brooklyn crowd I’ve seen there. Well, non-stereotypically-Brooklyn crowd. Most notably, suit and tie bros peppered the audience and I could have easily confused the bar for a happy hour rush in Murray Hill. There’s no real meaning or judgment in this observation, but it was an odd chance of scenery from the last few punk shows I’ve attended.
There’s been a lot of discussion around U.S. Girls (appropriately) and the kind of pop music ringleader Meghan Remy curates. Some call it experimental, some call it noise—Whatever it is, her releases have always been fantastic. Live, however, lightning strikes and it all comes together into the grooviest disco around. With seven band members, three of which are guitar players, there’s no shortage or excess of sound. Each player adds an essential layer to Remy’s textured bops. The most exhilarating sound came in the form of a small saxophone that screeched and shredded like the most theatrical, over-reverbed 80s guitar solo.
But, at the center, was Meghan Remy, the magician behind it all, reaping the benefits of her musicianship. The players performed her creations around her and you could see her reveling in what she had created, often over watching them and smirking like a proud coach. Now grand gestures are needed when your voice is that ice cold and your natural existence is full of understated swagger. Knowing the sold-out crowd was 100% with her the whole time, she let the show and the music speak for itself, skipping out on any banter in between songs. In fact, on several occasions, she stood on stage motionless, stared into the audience, and took her time to begin the next song, letting the audience cheer and clap for her. She may come from a punk/experimental scene, but she’s just as much a disco diva as she is a bad bitch.
Like a breath of fresh air in the current music landscape, it was so refreshing to experience the work of a musician who knows how to take their time. She was never afraid to let her bandmates jam as long as the beat felt dynamic or let her ambient textures rumble in our eardrums until it was time for the moment to pass. This show was on her time. If that meant making the saxophone player screech his way through a solo until his face turned red, so be it. If that meant staring into the audience until she was ready, so be it.