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Illuminati Hotties With Katy Kirby And Fenne Lily At Highland Park Ebell Club, Saturday, February 12th 2022

Illuminati Hotties
Illuminati Hotties

Illuminati Hotties are a fun band to watch, Sarah Tudzin is all smile and all bounce, while the quartet moves on stage like a punk band. Tudzin has described her unique style as “tenderpunk,” as the music tends to deliver as much joy and sunshine as tender wit. That’s why I didn’t expect the opening act to be solemn; however, it was a women’s night from start to finish and it was glorious.

Texas-native Katy Kirby opened the night at Highland Park Ebell Club presented by Sid the Cat, and I immediately got some Adrianne Lenker type of confessional vibes. The audience was so quiet that the click of my camera sounded like a major disturbance. Her thin but gorgeous voice was effortlessly moving above the beautiful melodies of her songs, while her performance was stripped down to just two intertwined guitars. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter grew up in an evangelical Christian family in a very small town of Texas, where she was homeschooled and immersed in her faith. It is a story we have heard before, a childhood without any exposure to pop or rock music, but plenty of exposure to religious music. After a first EP, she caught the attention of a label and released an album “Cool Dry Place” last year on Keeled Scales. Her songs certainly had big hooks beautifully served by her agile and striking vocals, the guitars were elegant and charming, and the public got captivated at the first song, “My baby is a fireman/And I never will get tired of him/Because he’s got, because he’s got/Three days on and three days off.” There was undeniable humor under these melancholic and often poignant melodies. The soul-searching lyrics were often meticulously chosen, reaching very deep observations and revelations about family and relationships. “I try not to think of myself as a person who just writes songs to emotionally process things, but I do think what you’re hearing is me figuring out if I still had a relationship with God,” she declared in an interview. She received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd, and lines like “I tap twice on your doorframe and you let me in / I tap twice on your forehead and a heart appears” – wrapped around a strong hook in “Tap Twice” – and other little gems let me think that we will hear much more about Katy in the future.

Setlist: Fireman, Juniper, W W listen, Tap Twice, Fences, Cool Dry Place, Portals

Bristol artist Fenne Lily was next for another captivating performance performed with a full band this time. The blonde young woman brought her collection of songs, another personal journey into the present generation’s anxieties, and plenty of her tunes had poignant moments and moody tempo changes which made her set quite appealing. She self-released her first album, “On Hold” in 2018 while her second album, “Breach” released in 2020, explores the themes of isolation and loneliness. This is quite unsurprising during pandemic times, although she started the process as an experiment by isolating herself in a flat in Berlin before the big lockdown. In contrast with Kirby’s very low-key set, Fenne Lily brought distortion and tempestuous moments, but she started with the slow-paced “Someone Else’s Trees,” revealing grave vocal tones and intimate confessions: “I’m not afraid to die, more so to be alive/I know in this and more I’m not alone.” With the help of her band, she played more upbeat ones “Car Park,” a song about California she said, or “Hypochondriac” although the themes of the set stayed sarcastic or even grim, “I gave up smoking when I was coughing up blood/And when I felt better again, I took it straight back up,’ she murmured in “Laundry and Jet Lag,” “You sent me a head on my birthday/You said it was made with love,” she sang in “Birthday.” From atmospheric guitars to impetuous sonic moments, to vocal harmonies with her friend Christian Lee Hutson (who came on stage for a song), her eclectic set had bold imagery and her serious demeanor may have reminded me of Laura Marling, the kind of cerebral/confessional songwriter who can combine the words ‘apathy’ and ‘allopathy’ in a song title.

Setlist: Someone Else’s Trees, Car Park, Hypochondriac, Laundry and Jet Lag, Birthday, I Used To Hate My Body But Now I Just Hate You, Elliott, Alapathy, Prisoners

Sarah Tudzin took the stage by storm with the aggressive/fun punk provocation” Will I Get Cancelled if I write a song called, “if you were a man you’d be so cancelled,” from her 2020 album “Free I.H.: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For.” It was the best introduction to her rebel/riot girl side, and plenty of the songs which followed were cuts from the band’s latest album, “Let Me Do One More.” From the audience’s handclap during the joyful head bounces of “Pool Hopping” to the chaotic cacophonic pop of “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA,” blending aggressive punk riffs with buoyant rhythmic jumps, the performance was playing in full contrast with the rest of the night in the sense that the mood was always shifting into some unexpected plain fun direction The quartet alternated between sweetness and relentless momentums, between calmness and ferocity with lyrics encapsulating moments of modern life and lyrics as clever as their well-thought moniker. They simply defy genres and categorizations: it’s not too often you can say that a band has invented its own genre – the “tenderpunk” description already mentioned. Dissonant guitars, streams of consciousness, and reflections on modern life abound in the songs, which, nevertheless, never lack a catchy chorus. Humorous punk-pop could describe most of the numbers while the attitude jumped from goofy to sincere

The set was a colorful and animated collection of tunes with bright hooks and story-telling, playfully served by an irreverent but always fun attitude. Songs like “Joni: LA’s No 1 Health Goth” were working like witty satires of our lives in California. “We are from here!” Sarah told us at the beginning of the show. She also told us about her misadventure before coming to a show, a malfunction of an ATM machine that stopped working in the middle of a transaction and swallowed the merchandise money that Sarah intended to deposit. “The bank was closed so I don’t know,” she added with a large smile, just before starting another banger. This sounded like the perfect illustration of Illuminati Hotties’ message: capitalism is threatening but “If you’re not laughing, baby/Then you’re not making money.”

Setlist: Will I Get Cancelled if I write a song called, “if you were a man you’d be so cancelled”, Knead, Pool Hopping, MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA, Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism, The Sway, Joni: LA’s No 1 Health Goth, Kickflip, Cuff, Boi, Sandwich Sharer, ppl plzr, Growth, uvvp, (You’re Better) Than Ever.


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