Sidney Gish Concert Review

Sallie England

Sidney Gish walked onto the stage confidently, but as the lights shot on a shaky hand revealed some gentle nerves. I felt nervous with her. It’s daunting sharing your diary content in front of a crowd. But her incredible guitar techniques and personal touches transcended any doubts a person could have had and left me with the feeling that I had just made friends with one of the most talented artists of our generation.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Dibbern

Sidney Gish began her set with a cover of STRFKR’s “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second”. Simple in its lyrics and guitar riffs this song choice set the stage for a playful hug of a set. She started her originals with “Where the Sidewalk Ends”. I loved this choice. This song reminds me of the deep love I have for my closest friends, and she delivered it with even more originality. I loved watching her play around with what is already such a playful song. Her lyrics are full of wishes and Alice-in-Wonderland-like lyrics such as “I wanna circle you like a rabbit courting both my shoes”. Gish’s songs bounce, and her flowy, wavy, light red/auburn hair bounces with them while the deep focus in her eyes brings you into the busy city streets of her mind.

Her perfect pitch showed in her dynamic variations of each song. Not allowing us to sing along to her recorded melodies but encouraging us to listen as she displayed her range and drew us into a musical interpretation of her songs 5 years after they were released. During “I Eat Salads Now” instead of her recorded line “I’m 20, washed up already” she reminded us all that she’s 25 now, proving that the feeling of being “washed up” is maybe not so permanent. Maybe she also wanted us to consider that most of the songs she was performing were from an album before 5 years of social and personal adjustment. I was glad to have heard before her set that she would mostly be playing songs from her 2017 album, “No Dogs Allowed” as it is my favorite. However, I would have loved to hear one or two songs from “Ed Buys Houses”, especially “Friday Night Placebo” because the line “I can’t see a thing in the haze around me” feels so relevant right now.

As Gish moved through her set she displayed incredible coordination in her looping and timing, clicking her pedalboard with her Doc Martin-esqe army boots. Giving me the best one-woman-show I’ve witnessed thus far in my concert going journey. No backing band, Sidney Gish is every part of her music and ever part is her. Seeing her conduct her own sound established the certainty in everyone that Gish is an authentic performer worthy of the impressive words used to describe her in a Pitchfork article.

For her most popular song “Presumably Dead Arm”, she stripped it down to the singular layer of her own guitar strumming. No looping. In doing this she allowed her natural and emotional dynamics to guide a song full of love and longing and hurt. Her solo narrative accompanied with a looming and sometimes intense strumming pattern reminded me of the diary of a teenage girl. Confused, frustrated, and most passionate.

As Gish played “Persephone”, one of my dear favorites on the album, she added an upbeat rock drum line on her pedal board, transforming a song I once thought to be ever so slightly melancholy, into a fun, light page in her unwavering diary of intrusive thoughts and her playful stream of consciousness.

In between her songs she acknowledged the crowd saying “denvaaaa”, making me feel silly and visibly calming down her own anxieties while bringing us up to sing with her. Calming us all down collectively. Sidney Gish’s guitar is like the nerve-calming tapping exercise I needed on a day I woke up confused about the outside world.

Once she announced she would be performing her new single “Filming School”, she made sure to encourage the crowd to have their own conversations while she “would take about 2 minutes” looping each guitar layer before beginning the lyrics. Fuck a private conversation because watching her in the looping process felt like watching her make music alone in her room. Without pressure, without expectation, with only the voices in her head thinking a million individual perfect thoughts and flowing out of her like a fountain of orbeez.

Sidney is a quirky delight, unlike the classic shitty female indie movie main character, she is real, she’s honest, she’s nervous, and she’s the quintessential poet of being a kid in your twenties. Nothing makes sense, nothing is real, and the only thing you can really do to be involved is observe and document. She observes through a lens I wish I could see through. It’s no wonder Jack Madison loved her. He felt her lyrics were his inner voice.

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