Underground with Emily Burns and Tove Stryke

Amplitude

“When I was dancing, I just wanted to freeze the moment and stay right there.”

These words came out of my mouth – completely unironically – after watching Emily Burns and Tove Styrke perform, wending my way home across Waterloo Bridge.  Watching two women whose songs I had sung along to before a night out, cried to after heartbreak, bonded over on countless occasions, was a happiness that felt like it had walked straight out of a movie cliché.

It was clear that I wasn’t alone in this feeling. The guy behind me who screamed along so loud his voice cracked; the girls in front who danced so hard they didn’t notice their dip-dye got an extra dousing of beer from my friend’s cup – we were all so invested in the music it was tangible. There were no awkward hang-ons or partners clearly tagging along at this gig. We were there for the artists and the songs and the experience.

It’s a sentiment shared by musician Emily Burns, who is supporting Tove Styrke throughout her UK tour. “It’s really cool to see so many female pop artists coming through and making waves,” she told Third Wavelength. “I’m just really honoured to be a part of that and for people to be engaging and listening to my music.”

Aside from the emotion of the songs, the night hit me in a way I didn’t entirely expect. I only realised the day before that the gig was taking place in Heaven, one of the longest-running gay clubs in London and the scene of many of my own nights out. To stand in the same spot where Freddie Mercury met Jim Hutton, where countless LGBT+ performers have debuted, and watch two queer women as part of a headline tour – I’ve retyped this sentence four times now because words really can’t describe.

The more engaged I become in LGBT+ circles, the more I realise there are often precious few spaces for bisexual women. Being in a heterosexual relationship makes you straight, being in a homosexual relationship makes you lesbian. Even friends jokingly calling me gay digs a little under my skin. Heaven is one of the few places where anything really does go: I’ve met both men and women there and no one has batted an eyelid.

Both women’s music also provided that space. Styrke has often said herself that her songs are the stories of everyone, not just her own: “I want to connect with people through my music, touch someone else’s feelings not just tell you about mine. To do that I need to keep these stories open for interpretation so that anybody who didn’t live my life can apply them to theirs.”

Burns writes from personal experience herself, yet her lyrics could just as easily be about my own life, or Loud Screaming Guy, or Hair-Flicking Girl, or, according to her near-tearful post-gig elation, my friend’s. For Burns, heartbreak is the uniting factor: “I write a lot of songs about my personal experiences in dating and my love life and the trials and tribulations of it… A lot of my songs are inspired by girls that have broken my heart.”

Live music always creates a community in the crowd, no matter the size or space, but that night was something else. There was a collective identity in the music that spoke to everyone in the room. The combination of meaningful pop songs with the iconic underground arches of Heaven made for a sense of belonging I had never noticed was missing in previous gigs. Thank you to Emily Burns and Tove Stryke in creating that – and here’s to finding and shaping even more inclusive spaces and art.

Emily Burns releases her new single this month so keep an eye on her website. Third Wavelength can categorically confirm it is an absolute tune.

Tickets for Tove Stryke’s Scandinavian tour can be found here.

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Jade Bird: Femininity is Being Able to be Myself

Amplitude

Jade Bird laughs a lot. Before songs, in between songs, at the end of her show as she graciously accepts somewhat riotous applause. She seems overwhelmingly happy from start to finish, even amidst apologies for playing “more sad songs” . It is a whirlwind performance, from the loud and infectious laughter to plentiful raw refrains about heartbreak, divorce and affairs.

“I’ve never been cheated on personally,” Bird tells us, “so I have to adapt to a mindset that isn’t necessarily my own.” It would appear she adapts well: the songs are poignant, or boisterous, sometimes both, and for someone who says early on in the proceedings, of the potential poor views of the stage for some audience members, “I’m only a little person!” she does not come across little‘ at all. On the contrary, her vocals come across as all the things you ever wanted to say in a relationship, or at the end of one, on steroids.

The music details women’s situations in relationships and beyond; idealism and sorrow that has heralded the country music scene for decades. Yet it seems lazy, even patronising, to conclude that she is but a “strong woman”; Bird’s music is perhaps more that of a “real woman”. Not because there is any such thing as the opposite, but rather because Bird has a succinct way of telling an audience what is real for her, strong or otherwise, and gripping them with it.

“It is fundamental that I am a women to perform most of my songs,” Bird explains, “as a lot of them encompass a young female’s perspective.” She names her mother and grandmother as role models: “[they] inspired me to never take no for an answer and not to give up,” as well as bassist Jesske Hume who plays on the “Lottery” record.

 

2018 is ready for Bird. Following a performance of Lottery” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon came a play on BBC Radio 1: two sizable transatlantic platforms in a fortnight. Meanwhile, her Instagram feed is funny, honest and self-deprecating, as she slumps on a treadmill in one video and then widens her eyes following the Radio 1 play of her single on Nick Grimshaw’s show in another. ‘Infectious’ comes to mind: a woman you want to be friends with because she’s… Normal. You feel you might as well have gone to school with her.

Although with guitar in hand, Bird is a far cry from a candy-tipped Swift-esque pop. This is a woman whose Spotify “Up to Now…” playlist, detailing her inspirations and loves of the music world, begins with Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”. What does ‘femininity’ mean to her? “Femininity is a form of expression. For example femininity for me is being able to be myself, which happens to be a woman. I think it’s… confidence, happiness and sexuality.” Words that pair well with her shrieking laughter and the belted choruses ready to blow our cosy, Yorkshire venue’s roof up, up, and away.

Bird ends the night by playing Johnny Cash, which pleases the crowd, certainly, but by now it’s a crowd which, in its over-packed venue, is so delightedly stunned by her performance that it seems suddenly much more “little” than she.

Jade Bird live @ Oporto, Leeds, 11th March. Cover photo: Andrew Lipovsky. 

Lottery” available for download.

What’s your wavelength?

 

 

 

Fiorenza Menini: fragility in art

Amplitude, Momentum

“No, stop! Do not say another word! I think – just play the video. Just watch.”

Fiorenza Floraline Menini is, perhaps fairly, territorial over her art. She takes time and care to articulate herself, both before her performances and during a Q&A session which follows, even when this means cutting off the introduction to her film viewing.

Série Les lectrices, les endormies, les rêveuses 2015-2017

Série “Les lectrices, les endormies, les rêveuses” 2015/2017, fiorenza-menini.com

Menini’s art ranges from photography to poetry, and as part of her performance tour of the UK, we view her film Les Attractions Contraires after she reads her poem Pourquoi je n’aime pas Francis Bacon. She apologises afterwards: “I feel like it’s… A lot this evening!” And while we have certainly heard some raw autobiography, and her film ends with a note to HIV victims, the entire experience seems more delicate than ‘a lot’ or too much. I ask her if she feels feminine as an artist. Does it make a difference to her work that she is a woman?

“What is beautiful is when you talk about fragility, poetry, it’s ‘feminine’. Like it’s weak. And I think there is nothing more strong than fragility… What’s the most fragile in our bodies? Skin. It’s super fragile, but skin is also extendable, and it can repair very quickly.” Menini is entrancing to speak to as she expresses her ideas of humanity, poetry, fragility. Fragility in particular comes up a lot; she claims it’s central to forming the poetry necessary for resistance in today’s society. “The only thing we can say, with certainty, that we share, is suffering.” Later, she describes how humans treat themselves with brutality. “It’s like taking armour [she mimes a hammer] to your iPad or a complex machine – that’s what we are doing to ourselves! Why?!”

On her website, one can see the strands of resistance she talks about so fervently (and fondly): a photograph of a small child’s dress, lifted at the front, is accompanied by the words ‘I DON’T LIKE DAVID HAMILTON.’ It is difficult to look at. She tells me of the photo, “Other artists at the time, they looked away and try to ignore things like this. Same with #MeToo, with ‘Time’s Up’. I had to say something.”

Ode a fureur 2017 performance

Ode à la Fureur performance reading, 2017 fiorenza-menini.com/performances/

Links are made continually in her performance and talk between the “big things in life” (“Poets change the government! And history!”) and the small. I am particularly enraptured by her comments on poetic moments. “Moments like in the morning when you’re staring at the water turning, spinning, in a cup of tea or coffee… And this moment of attention when you’re just contemplating… For me, this is the source of a poetic moment. It is only if you capture it, if you take it back for yourself, consciously, that you make it a poetic moment. If not, it’s just time passing. This activity of recapturing our poetic inner source, our poetic possibility, is fundamental and is an act of resistance.” Speech beautiful enough to make any amateur or professional pick up a pen…

And that’s her other overarching sentiment: a will for changing the perception of art. It is, she insists to the quiet audience, accessible to all, and that is crucial. “Everybody can do it. People say ‘Oh, I cannot do anything like this by myself’, but it’s the opposite: you can, really, and we have to start now to reconquer our humanity. And redefine our humanity. We are the only ones who can do it; we cannot expect other people to do it for us.”

The evening is contemplative and her answers to questions feed as many new questions as her pieces of art themselves. To end, an audience member asks if she considers herself a story-teller. Her response sums up beautifully her “art-is-for-everybody” approach: “Why not?”

Easy: An Anthology of Our Times

Amplitude

Minor spoilers ahead.

Easy had been sitting in my Netflix queue for months before a killer hangover finally trapped me for long enough to sit down and watch it. I was wary at first of the cover image of two girls kissing, reminding me too much of previous Netflix dramas that focus with voyeuristic pleasure on same-sex relationships without bothering to include anything except a perverse glee in watching two women have sex. The relationships in Easy are so much more than that though – although there are certainly sex scenes a-plenty.

With clear efforts to create a diverse cast of men and women of different sexualities, lifestyles, ethnicities, and appearances, Easy brings together a series of vignettes into the lives of adults in and around Chicago. The script is written with a delicate ease that makes you forget you’re watching actors rather than eavesdropping on strangers, even when familiar faces like Dave Franco and Aubrey Plaza pop up on your screen. The nature of the show means that stories overlap: the babysitter you barely noticed in S1E1 resurfaces in the next episode to be enlightened about veganism, creating a whole world of intersecting characters that reflects the micro-interactions of reality. Every episode brings a new question to the forefront: does monogamy work? Is there a difference between traditional and new-age art? Are parents always right? Ostensibly the show claims to be about love and relationships, but even after just two seasons, the anthology has explored so many different avenues of modern life that it seems unjust to limit it to a drama about sex.

Despite falling in love with the series as a whole, I cannot pretend to like every character. The arrogant artist who slut shames his younger generational counterpart, the bratty brewer who refuses to grow up even after becoming a father, the husband who can’t get to grips with his wife’s sexuality but refuses to admit it: they are all people who would frustrate me no end if I met them in real life, yet their presence in the show only makes it all the more believable. Too many shows are overly preoccupied with flawless characters you would fall in love with even if they didn’t have perfectly sculpted cheekbones and silky hair first thing in the morning.

I didn’t realise until I wrote it just now, but the only characters I actively disliked were all male. Whether or not this is my feminist bias talking, I stand by the fact that the female characters of Easy are refreshingly realistic. There are feminists who aren’t perfect, artists who don’t deal exclusively in romances designed to win back old loves, lesbians who exist within their own right and not to be gawped at by men, older women who don’t just serve as fountains of knowledge to their daughters…the list goes on. Every episode introduced a new woman who, even if she wouldn’t be my best friend, I could understand and relate to, and above all, believe in. Again, despite Easy supposedly being centred on sex and relationships, we often see characters of both genders bypassing relationships to achieve other goals, like moving across the country to get the acting role of a lifetime, or taking on a new lifestyle choice to get a unique chance at motherhood. This is especially refreshing for female characters, who so often in film and TV get their happy ending, often including a career, children, or some other goal, but for which the main fulfilment is the man. Not only were non-hetero relationships given valuable space in Easy, relationships in general were not presented as the ladder to happiness that everyone must climb.

All in all, Easy is a show that I have been recommending left, right, and centre, and I can only do the same here. There is thoughtful cinematography for the critics, realistic relationships for the romantics, and engaging characters for the average viewer. The series is a collection of snapshots into modern life that leaves you feeling both at home and simultaneously curious about the potential back-story of the passenger opposite you on the bus. In a world with so much noise, every person has a story to tell, and Easy brings together some of the more fascinating parts of everyday life in a gorgeous blast of artistic skill.