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Review: Girli @ Thekla

Spanning a vast array of genres, from punk influences and electric rap to bouncing, upbeat hyperpop, Girli’s music invites you to dance, sing, scream and cry, often all at the same time.

By Isabel Williams, Second Year English

If you asked one of Girli’s fans to describe her image in one word, it would almost certainly be “pink”. The colour is central to the artist’s branding, and rightfully so, as it communicates much about both her music and her persona as an artist: bright, brash, and unapologetically hyper-feminine.

Whilst her exterior may seem tough, the artist never shies away from baring the soft underbelly of her personality, with lyrics that touch upon breakups, backstabbing friends, the pressures of modern day commercialism and the tender joys of queer love. Girli shocked fans in late 2022, when the artist revealed she had changed her iconic hot pink hair- the symbol that seemed to be so fundamental to her artistic image- to a bleached blonde ‘do, complete with hot pink tips. With this self-declared introduction of a “new era”, Girli’s popularity as an artist has grown rapidly, but her pure pink essence has remained unchanged. It is this figure- less underground, more polished, but still, quintessentially, Girli- who greeted us from Thekla’s stage on Tuesday night.

The dancefloor of Thekla can usually be described as something akin to a cave - dark and cavernous, a hollow contained within metal walls, blackened by damp and time. Tonight, however, the whole dancefloor is swathed in hot pink, each head encircled by a neon halo. As Girli’s drummer Sara and back-up vocalist and guitarist Faber start the first song, Girli bounds onto the stage in a bedazzled puffy dress, crystals twinkling on her eyes, like a prom queen come to collect her crown. Her song 'Has Been' is a perfect opener, a tune that instantly gets the audience dancing. The mocking references to public criticism are channelled through the medium of metal-reminiscent electrics. During the climax of the song, she releases a scream that seems to arc through the air, twisting and falling, and the audience cheers in response.

It is Girli’s characteristic authenticity that shines through in the intervals between songs: "I used to change the lyrics of love interests in my songs to he/him, instead of she/her or they/them" she confesses as her band takes a breather. "That changed with this song" she adds, before launching into 'Girl I Met on the Internet', an older song that combines slow rap with a beat built from early gaming sound effects. The result is a song that is both modern yet enthused with nostalgia, the lyrics an ode to an early 2000’s generation of internet youths: the restlessness, the angst, the aches and thrills of a romantic crush that any teenager cannot help but resonate with.

GIRLI @ Thekla | Isabel Williams

Girli strides back and forth on stage, crouching down and leaning in towards the crowded pit as if to address the wide-eyed spectators directly. During the chorus of 'Hot Mess', a fan favourite and possibly her most famous song, she and her back up vocalist Faber thrash dangerously back and forth, violently sweeping their microphone stands to belt into each other’s faces before swaying back again. The song is popular for a reason: a raw feminist anthem that is sandpaper-rough with riot grrrl grit. The deep bassline mingles with a crowd’s worth of rhythmic clapping and raised voices, a celebration of female rage combined with defiant words that refuse to stoop to the judgement of the patriarchy. At one point Girli jumps without warning into the crowd, and for a few moments all that can be seen of her is a flash of bright blonde hair and an upturned microphone.

There is a surprise towards the end of her set: an unreleased song called 'Inner Child'. "I’m really getting tired of your inner child", she sings, " ‘cos man he’s really having a breakdown." The audience are invited to sing along, and soon the whole room is swaying and bopping their heads, grinning at each other through the dim light. The set finishes with 'More Than A Friend', a song that thrums with a heavy techno beat like a pumping heart, over which Girli’s voice cries out with the wild tones of anguished desire. Girli’s upbeat energy and her enthusiasm for creating genuine, heartfelt depictions of both the ups and downs of modern youth has amassed a dedicated cult following.

Her performance at Thekla makes me certain that this love for her can only continue, and that no matter what hair colour she may choose next, in the minds of her fans she will always be the embodiment of the word 'pink'.

Featured Image: Isabel Williams

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