As energy swelled on a mid-heatwave Wednesday night, the voice of Gladie’s lead vocalist Augusta Koch rang out across the 9:30 Club. Koch’s vocals scratched an itch in my brain from the get-go, her vocal fry reminiscent of early-2000s punk. If I closed my eyes, I could feel myself transported back to my childhood home, guitar and drum-heavy beats reverberating from my sister’s bedroom. Gladie embodied a classic punk mix of thoughtful lyrics, powerful vocals, and heavy beats. Each member of the band felt, not simply performed the music. This intensity drew the audience in as a part of the music, rather than as listeners. Each band member told an individual story through every single track.
Photo Credit: Micaeli Dym
Koch set the tone for a night of punk solidarity. Her genuine excitement to be sharing a stage with the night’s other two performers was clear. In between songs, she admitted to the audience that she had a friend crush on Sidney Gish, asking the crowd if sending a facebook friend request was lame. She told stories of going to see the night’s headliner Jeff Rosenstock in his early 2000s band, Bomb the Music Industry! Rosenstock has been a staple in the alternative music scene for years—highlighting the individual, anti-establishment nature of punk. This ethos of community brought the performers and audience together for a night of raw, uniquely personal rock.
After Gladie finished their set, Sidney Gish appeared like a beacon in the middle of the stage, her solitary presence a stark contrast to Gladie’s.
With long curls cascading down over her face, her unassuming but prominent energy added to her mystery. She surprisingly controlled the stage with her gentle presence. The simplicity of the guitar accompaniment highlighted one of Gish’s greatest skills: her witty, intelligent, unique lyricism. Her music has a cerebral quality that makes the audience chuckle—like Gish has included each and every one of us in an inside joke. “Persephone” brought me back to my fourth grade self (who definitely didn’t have an embarrassing mythology phase…). “Mouth Log” called me out for the endless notes app lists I use to catalog my life. Gish’s words were exceptional; each sound was intentional as she switched between angelic reminiscent melodies and almost-screams of frustration. Her most popular single, “Presumably Dead Arm,” needed no introduction. The repeating finger-picked guitar tabs brought a wave of nostalgia as Gish told a story about zombies and lost loves. There are few descriptions as relatable as “My brain's a toddler roller skating down a hill.” Gish’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics called us out but made each audience member feel seen at the same time, pointing out how hard it is to fall in love, but putting the blame on herself for not being open to connection (“Honey, you are nothing to me / I don't call people anything that's thought to be so sweet”). As I venture through the 14th grade, Gish is a key part of my soundtrack—anxious about the future yet in love with all the possibilities that it holds.
Photo Credit: Micaeli Dym
While Gish’s music is chock-full of her past anxieties, Rosenstock seemed to leave all concerns behind. Dressed in a neon muscle-tee and cut off jorts, his stage presence was joyfully carefree—in his own words, he’s “just a guy making stuff”. Rosenstock and his band buzzed with an infectious energy; pretty soon the whole crowd seemed to be jumping alongside the lead vocalist as they screamed the words in unison. One of the most impressive things about Rosenstock’s performance was its versatility. “WILL U STILL U,” the opening track of his newest album HELLMODE, seemed straight out of 90s/00s punk boy bands. With “DOUBT,” Rosenstock slowed things down (even quipping that “We do slow stuff too!”), building tension until his gentle vocals turned into screams.
The whole band functioned as one unit, joking on stage with each other and the audience between songs, looking at each other as the music swelled. Rosenstock traveled around the stage with little moments of great chemistry with each band member—at one point even switching guitars with the lead guitarist mid-song. Behind the unbridled joy of the performance, the audience also connected to a sense of anger with the world. His “FUTURE IS DUMB” served as a rally cry, waking the world up to a collapsing climate and dying planet. His lyrics captured the hopelessness we have all been feeling: “Oh, the weight of the world / Makes me feel like the future is gone.”
Photo Credit: Micaeli Dym
Rosenstock exemplified what was so perfectly punk about this night—there was not one vibe or sound that dominated, but it all flowed together perfectly. It was emotional, angry, anxious, fun, and joyful all at the same time. Each artist seemed so legitimately happy to be performing—this almost-packed opening night serving as a good omen for the tour ahead.
As I left the 9:30 Club, with the energy of the crowd sweating off of me, the night settled into a feeling of serenity. Although it was impossible not to air-drum alongside Gladie or jump along to Rosenstock’s angsty anthems, it was Gish who really set the tone . I am biased for sure: a 20-something woman writing about girlhood hits way closer to home than either of the more traditionally punk acts of the night could have. But in Gish’s lyrics, I found a sense of connection that stayed with me as “Uber[ed] up a giant park and dump[ed] my body in my dorm bed,” all the way home.
Micaeli Dym is a sophomore in the SFS studying Culture & Politics