Review: Girlpool and Quarterbacks @ The Deaf Institute – Manchester

The atmosphere in The Deaf Institute tonight is positively fizzing with an effervescent spirit as the predominantly young audience await the arrival of Los Angeles duo Girlpool. Still several days away from Fresher’s week for most universities, the venue is located right in the heart of the student quarter of town, yet it seems to have benefitted from the early return of a large gathering of second and third years which swell the ranks in the Deaf to bursting as the anticipation for this show grows.

The whole evening is actually a sweet, veritable trifle of lo-fi delights and the evening sparks to life with the clatteringly, no-nonsense approach to the genre by the first support act of the night Cop Graveyard. A barrage of songs fly by during the short set, some lasting no longer than a minute but the impassioned vocals prove captivating and the penchant for the personal in the lo-fi genre is present and correct in these earnest brief moments of real life, making them all the more beguiling.

Next up is New York native Dean Engle, performing solo tonight under the moniker Quarterbacks. The band usually play as a trio, describing themselves as twee punk, but tonight Dean’s sound possesses a much more stripped back quality. Unfortunately, Dean’s vocals initially seem to be affected by nerves and it takes a couple of songs for him to really engage with the crowd. He quickly re-discovers his mojo, eventually taking the evening in his stride and the energetic and appreciative crowd are quickly hooked. Dean is obviously enjoying the positive response that his brutally honest songs are having on the friendly audience, and his refreshingly self-deprecating approach to the genre is incredibly satisfying. Each composition is feral in design, refusing to panda to normal narrative conventions; if the point can be addressed in sixty seconds, fuck it! Who needs an ending anyway?

The support acts certainly do their job and the crowd welcome Girlpool on to the stage eagerly. The band have undeniably established quite a following since their emergence on the scene in 2014 and LP Before the World Was Big has ensured that the summer has been a good one for Harmony and Cleo. It is fair to say that the move east to Philadelphia certainly seems to be paying dividends.

Ideal World opens proceedings tonight and much like label mate Katie Crutchfield’s material AKA Waxahatchee, this song along with Before the World Was Big demonstrate how Girlpool are able to generate real shots of nostalgia through their music. In fact, the whole evening is seemingly fuelled by a musical spirit transplanted directly from the 90s. Fans of the film Reality Bites will certainly know where I’m coming from. The evocative spirit emanating from the stage flows through the receptive audience and Harmony and Cleo are clearly relishing the opportunity to perform to such knowledgeable and appreciative fans.

The main focus tonight though is the new record. Although this is slightly disappointing (songs such as Blah Blah Blah still define the original Girlpool sound), the two friends barrel through much of the album’s highlights, epitomizing the spirit of the lo-fi genre with aplomb. Personal favourites as we head towards the final stretch, Emily and Cherry Picking certainly provide more subtle evidence of the band’s ability to experiment and develop this lo-fi genre and it is no surprise when the band respond immediately to the enthusiastic clamour for the band to return to the stage for a brief yet fun encore.

***

For our interview and features with Girlpool, click here.

Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto

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