By Lily Turner, Second Year Geography
A concert carved by nihilistic and existential lyricism; you’re shoulder to shoulder with people in an indie free-fall with the palpable awareness of their mortality.
Rough Trade is one of Bristol’s most intimate music venues with the stage tucked behind the main body of the vinyl shop. Though the room was claustrophobic, it was the ideal size for the North Carolina singer as you could feel the swelling of her cathartic vocals: I felt like I was inside of her lungs.
The London-based warm-up act, Rosie Alena, washed the crowd with her soothing voice. Her seven-piece band was reduced to two allowing for a stripped-down set with just her and the guitarist Casper. She acted as the calm before the storm, seducing us into a dream state.
Any Shape You Take, De Souza’s second album, develops motifs from her debut I Love My Mom of unhealthy and performative relationships and death. Her lyricism can feel overly angsty and melodramatic, leaving you in a pessimistic indie-pop haze. Nevertheless, the grungy guitar and snappy drums curtail the existential dread to make you feel like an indie protagonist.
‘What Are We Gonna Do Now’ initiated the set, soon to be followed by ‘How I Get Myself Killed’ which associates a light-hearted crush with death, the psychedelic masterpiece ‘Bad Dream’ and ‘Home Team’ which slates the kind of American high school relationships where jocks and cheer girls make-out under the bleachers.
The queerness of the crowd can’t be overstated, only diluted by the occasional adolescent heteros with guys who’d crammed her top five; middle-aged men in their ‘sad-girl’ indie era and people on their ones who, I imagine, had just momentarily broken up with their partner so they could appreciate the music in its totality.
De Souza’s Bellatrix-esque appearance contradicts her personality of a more emotionally intelligent version of Olivia Rodrigo. Her lyricism finds solace in break-ups: ‘Breaking up with someone you love/ 'Cause you know it's gonna be for the better’ and ‘I want to believe that you’ve got a good heart’- whereas Rodrigo’s lyricism and attitude align with narcissistic and simplistic pop-culture cliches: ‘Good for you, you’re doing great without me’. De Souza’s magnetic lyricism grounds you in wisdom. She delivered a musical therapy session which left the room feeling sticky with the remnants of heartbreak.
The setlist was curated by her own preferences. Calls from the crowd requested that she played ‘Take Off Ur Pants’ and ‘Hold U’ which she revealed she doesn’t enjoy playing vocally. I find the latter instrumentally and lyrically tedious to listen to, so I appreciated her selfish tune selection. The singer warned us that there would be no encore, fast-forwarding the inevitability of the concert ending. Her set felt human to human, shunning forced performative cues.
This was her second to last show in Europe before she, and I quote, has to go “back to that shit hole where no one has cool accents”. ‘Kill Me’ concluded the set with an aggressive exhale, clawing at venomous relationships.
All in all, the atmosphere of the concert can be summed up by three quotes from Rosie, De Souza, and a fan respectively: “I don’t know why I’m laughing, it’s actually quite sad”, “you can take videos, I don’t mind. I’m going to die one day; you’re going to die one day” and “let’s go lesbians”.
De Souza’s tunes untangle all the existential pessimism tied in people’s minds, paving the way for a collective release of resurrected heartbreaks and insecurities.
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