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Girlschool 2018 at The Bootleg, Saturday January 3rd 2018

Shirley Manson


The second day at Girlschool didn’t disappoint at all, and when I though it would be difficult to top a Dum Dum Girls-Best Coast-Yeah Yeah Yeahs number, we got even more goodies on Saturday.

After an in-depth conversation between Whitney Bell (feminist and activist), Ashlee Marie Preston (activist, transexual and Assembly candidate) and Vera Papisova (editor at TEEN Vogue) about ‘How To Turn Social Media Activism Into Real Change’, the music acts alternated between both stages, and the styles of music during the mini festival could not have been more diverse, a real testimony that women have a lot to offer in terms of music. There was Lesser Pieces, an electronic duo with multi producer Mike Slott behind the computer and New Yorker-Egyptian singer-songwriter-composer Diane Badie on vocals. It sounded minimalist but rich with haunting soulful vocals of a statuesque songstress standing in front of cold and hypotonic electronics beats.

The three young girls of Pinky Pinky were a very familiar vision at Girlschool… I have seen the awesome female trio many times, and they played their very mature songs with drummer Anastasia Sanchez’s deep and soulful vocals, bassist Eva Chambers’ funny and playfully tortured faces while guitarist Isabelle Fields was finger picking her complex guitar phrases. I always enjoy their upbeat melancholic music and their very young age (they still are teenagers) certainly gave them a special place in the festival.

Mary Lattimore was the closest to classical music that the festival had to offer, she was playing a giant harp with special effects, as Joanna Newsom does but the resemblance stopped there. Lattimore is a pro who has collaborated with Philadelphia musician Jeff Zeigler, and has also performed with famous indie stars such as Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn, Sharon Van Etten, Jarvis Cocker, and Arcade Fire to name only a few. Her delicate and multi-layered sound was making the most cinematic effects (she has composed music for films) introducing a soothing atmosphere with a still unusual instrument.

Nick and Navi were the cutest duo ever, two Jamaican twin girls from the south side of Chicago who were playing an original fusion of musical genres, a sort of hip hop R&B hybrid sound with vocal harmonies while they were pushing gentle ‘hoop-heep’ noises which were giving  rhythms to go along their cool dance moves.

A.W. (Allison Weiss) on the Cherry stage brought a lot of emotion and passion in her guitar music, which had big and loud hooks. It was explosive pop music about love and heartbreaks that sounded like arena rock.

Canadian singer Akua had delicate and vaporous textures and a very beautiful voice. which can explain why she was Solange’s opening act during a performance in Canada and then Knowles’ background singer. Her performance was a bit strange, sad and hypnotic at the same time, but certainly very captivating.

Former guitarist and vocalist for the Dirty Projectors, Amber Coffman gave us a nice set of sunny and harmonious synth-pop music with guitar and keyboard, and she had such a pretty voice that I am sure everyone got in the mood for more, but each band was playing a short set of half an hour in order to fit many bands in the schedule.

I barely saw anything from the Canada-via-Somalia R&B sister duo Iman and Siham Hashi, aka Faarrow. They were very pretty and had cool harmonies but  everyone was already gathering against the Cherry stage where Shirley Manson was about to perform, and I didn’t want to miss anything.

It was the second year the Scottish singer had agreed to participate at Girlschool, but it was the first time she was playing a series of stripped-down Garbage classics with the help of Girlschool’s choir. She was welcome on stage like the queen of the festival, that she really was, while she thanked the all-female musicians on stage and their dedication to music… ‘Now we are going to do something we have never done before,’ she said before starting her short set, and I must admit that these strings sounded very good during ‘What Girls Are Made of’ and ‘Trick Is To Keep Breathing’.

I could barely see the choir of children standing in front of the stage, but their voices were big and soothing during ‘Bleed Like Me’… it was an almost symphonic rendition of Garbage’s classics and the atmosphere of the show even reminded me about Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds’ performance at the Fonda when they invited the Silverlake kid chorus during their ‘Pushing the Sky Away’ tour.

Shirley didn’t move much from behind her mic, but her strong stage presence was all we needed. Of course everyone was stretching neck and legs to see her above the crowd and this became even more crucial when Shirley announced her surprise guest, Fiona Apple. The audience exploded into a huge clamor, and Shirley told us how much she admired Fiona, ‘the greatest voice’ and ‘extraordinary talent’, who looked like a little girl next to the tall Manson.

After picking Apple’s album’s ‘Tidal’ in a store when she was in Australia in 1996, Shirley Manson told us she listened to it every single night of her tour. Together, the two women performed a cover of Lesley Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’, at Roxy Erikson’s suggestion, and of course Fiona, who wanted to bite Shirley’s butt (she is such an original and playful girl), gave us a very visceral and raw performance, while I noticed the mysterious inscription of her home-made white shirt,,, ‘Kneel, Portnow’.

It turns out this was directly addressed to Grammys president Neil Portnow and his recent comment to women, who ‘should step up when it comes to being involved in the music industry’… of course, Girlschool, the all-empowering-women festival, was the perfect place for this outspoken statement, it was a place which was proving over and over that females do not need to be told to step up, and it was a weekend to make these Grammys suits look small and stupid.

Setlist (Shirley Manson)
What Girls Are Made of
Bleed Like Me
Cherry Lips
Trick Is To Keep Breathing
Only Happy
You Don’t Own Me (with Fiona Apple)


Shirley Manson and Fiona Apple

Whitney Bell, Ashlee Marie Preston, Vera Papisova

Lesser Pieces

Pinky Pinky

Mary Lattimore

Shirley Manson

A. W.


Shirley Manson

Nick and Navi

Shirley Manson and Fiona Apple

Amber Coffman


Shirley Manson

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