Walking home that day, I wanted to cry. Then, I got up and went out to watch Liz Phair and Speedy Ortiz play their songs for me — and for a bit fewer than 1000 others— and by 11pm, I felt more than a little healed.
At ripe old age 21, I was the youngest by far in the packed outdoor round of Mohawk, but that didn’t change much for me at all. The crowd was ionized. And rightfully so: before us was our Matador matriarchal savior, here to relieve our sorrows.
In a seamless choreography of guitar changes, Phair and her backing band of gleaming, ebullient men cranked a setlist keeled between her earliest triumvirate of albums, with emphasis on Guyville. Speckled throughout the bouncing lo-fi pop setlist were topical tosses, barely noticeable and tinged with that wry smirk perma-peeking behind her music. For instance, her blithe introduction to the eerily topical “Uncle Alvarez”: “This one’s a song about fraudulent men,” and cue the riotous applause.
Three-quarters through the set, Phair’s band dropped down to just two guitars and she pulled out a mesmerizing, intimate rendition of “Go West” from her earliest demos Girly Sound tapes. After seemingly closing with her 2003 chart-topping “Why Can’t I?,” Phair and her bandmates weren’t done. In a stage whisper, the five-piece reached a consensus. Phair laughed into her mic, “We’re not doing a walk-off, so just pretend this is the encore,” and launched into more hits: “Fuck and Run” and “Divorce Song.”
Beforehand, clad in gold lamé of local design, Sadie Dupuis led her band Speedy Ortiz, as well as the outspoken discourse for the evening. In a 1-2 punch of stage banter and song follow through, Dupuis dropped blunt truisms like, “Men don’t listen to all the shit women have to go through everyday,” into tackling songs like “Villain,” about coping with assault. The band plowed through half an hour of their searing, fuzz-coated indie rock in between the banter. Other highlights include the band’s shreddy as all hell rendition of “Lucky 88,” and Dupuis’ stumping for the Democratic Socialists of America, despite its lukewarm reception.
I’d imagine any night in any city, this tour unpacks the same basic elements: women performing their own songs with joy and love and feeling and um, playing the fuck out of their guitars. On September 27, these basic elements were antidotes to every demeaning part of the past few weeks. And Kavanuagh’s confirmation takes away nothing from the night. Women will keep singing their songs, and we will keep listening.