Last Friday at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, or PhilaMOCA, French Vanilla and Girlpool captured the angst and nostalgia of growing up as a girl with striking vulnerability.
This was post-punk band French Vanilla’s first time playing in Philadelphia, and they definitely killed it with one of the most energetic performances I’ve ever watched. The LA based four-piece is fronted by Sally Spitz, whose dynamic, uniquely enunciated vocals are abrasive and refreshing. As she jumped and danced in the space between the stage and the audience, Sally shouted playfully phrased feminist lyrics like, “Carrie got her period in the shower, Carrie got her period and everyone laughed at her,” with a frankness that exposes the realities of becoming a woman and the changing relationships with friends, lovers, and parents that come with the process. Some songs also offered social commentary on other issues, like Anti-Aging Global Warming, in which Sally repeats, “What’s gonna happen when we run out?” in reference to the earth’s quickly diminishing resources. Daniel Trautfield’s saxophone parts were another huge component of French Vanilla’s energy and distinctness, especially during a live performance. The upbeat and vibrantly delivered sax solos stole the show and made dancing pretty irresistible.
Things got a little more chill for Girlpool but no less spirited. With Harmony Tividad on bass, Cleo Tucker on guitar, and both delivering beautiful yet raw sounding harmonies, the folk punk duo charmed the wide-eyed audience with stripped down songs that were empowering, honest, and utterly relatable. Not unlike Sally, Harmony and Cleo told coming of age stories with utterly honest and relatable lyrics like, “Cut my hair when I’m feeling like I don’t have a place, and the mirror’s reflection pushes me further away; if I loved myself, would I take it the wrong way?” Girlpool’s performance was both vulnerable and empowering; between their punchy expression of self-consciousness and Harmony and Cleo’s visibly close friendship, their openness extended it’s hand to every member of the audience, encouraging us to more comfortable with the insecurities we share. Girlpool is a quintessential example of “less is more.” Their directness and minimalism along with their clever lyrics and hilarious banter creates intimacy that few bands can achieve.
French Vanilla and Girlpool saturated the evening with candor and attitude. Although they have very distinctive sounds, both bands seem to be influenced by the 90’s riot grrrl movement. The DIY scene is breeding a new wave of feminist punk, of which Girlpool is a vanguard and French Vanilla is a hidden gem.
Photos by Reyna Wang