By Jess Wilkinson, First year English and Philosophy
For the first time in almost three years, GIRLI returns to the stage to kick off her latest tour at The Lanes in Bristol.
GIRLI was somewhat of a cult classic for teenagers in their indie youth. Toeing the line between underground artist and pop sensation, it appeared she was just about to burst into the mainstream. Infamous for her striking image – head-to-toe in pink attire – her gigs would be charged with a powerful feminist message. Despite the difficulties GIRLI has faced in her career over recent years, namely being dropped by her record label and the restrictions of COVID preventing income through live music, it seems this hasn’t stopped her from growing as an artist and developing her sound to make an impactful return to live music.
Two support acts set the tone well for the night. GENN was on first, an elusive contrast of punk and psychedelic licks, with lead singer Leona Farrugia’s impressive vocals standing out in a somewhat haunting manner. July Jones followed, an edgy-electro pop artist with a Madonna-esque look, delving into themes of love, queer identity and mental health. Both acted well as a precursor for GIRLI to perform, embodying the same feminine energy. GIRLI proudly mentioned later in the show that the entire team for this tour consists of women and non-binary individuals.
GIRLI starts with a fan-favourite ‘Day Month Second’, a sing-along heartbreak hit that has the crowd chanting along with her. The energy from both GIRLI and the crowd only increases as she begins her next song, ‘Has Been’, an anthem marking the wake of a relationship ending. The aesthetic of the show matches the spirit of these songs – a pink backdrop with the word ‘GIRLI’ sprayed onto it stands behind as she sings, as well as a neon lit ‘GIRLI’ sign on stage. Her outfit is a black and white two-piece with skulls and crosses on it, with black and white tights and a Vivienne Westwood styled flamed eye makeup to match (in pink of course). Fusing classic punk iconography with an overtly pink colour palette, GIRLI’s feminist protest can be understood as much in her music as in her presence.
Moving between newer songs like ‘Deal With It’ and old favourites like ‘Not That Girl’, the crowd remains enthralled by GIRLI’S (real name Milly Toomey) presence on stage. Evidently ecstatic to see her performing live again, the crowd’s reaction is comforting to Toomey, who confesses that she was nervous to perform again after such a long time. This more intimate side of Toomey has been explored in her recent work, with her latest EP Damsel in Distress covering topics notably more vulnerable than before. Tracks such as ‘Dysmorphia’ and ‘I Don’t Like Myself’ reflect on mental health issues and more personal struggles. Both these tracks were met with enthusiasm when performed live, fans singing along to every lyric just as they would pre-COVID times, demonstrating their connection to Toomey and proving her music has not changed with her growth as an artist.
The love for GIRLI’s old music is still apparent too, as she asks who has been listening since 2017. The crowd cheers, and this cheer is amplified as she launches into ‘Girl I Met On The Internet’. With fans yelling ever word back at her, there is evidently a love and fondness for her older work that remains.
She closes the set with ‘More Than A Friend’, the crowd giving all their energy for her last song of the night. At the end of the song, she confesses that she wants to start every tour in Bristol, which is met with cheers in agreement from the crowd. Demonstrating the close connection she continues to have with her fans, she says that she’ll be over by the merch stand after the show for anyone who wants to come and chat.
The brief step away from live music doesn’t seem to have dimmed the atmosphere at a GIRLI gig; her fans remain loyal and always inspired by her feminist anthems and powerful presence on stage.
Featured image: Jessie Rose
Have you seen GIRLI live?