The women at Play Like A Girl’s special Galentine’s Day event at the Hi Hat this past Sunday all outdid themselves. The venue was outfitted with feminists and their art, including signs that were preserved from the Women’s March a few weeks ago that proclaimed “My Body My Choice,” “My Name Is: NASTY,” and of course “The Wall I Like Is An Album By Pink Floyd.” Admittedly, an older white man stood out in the crowd, but before judging, I was sure to eavesdrop on his conversations (sorry!); turns out he has been a Lauren Ruth Ward fan for months and desperately wanted to see her perform live. He was almost deterred by her late set time, but spoiler alert: he made the entire night worth it.
I’ve known Emily Gold previously as a bright young pop songstress, but tonight, her figurative eyeliner was decidedly black. She channeled some of punk rock’s greats in a loud but tight set, which would have made the most law-abiding citizen a riot grrl. Her dream pop persona that I have known has a gentle, but nuanced message of modern affection. On Sunday though, surrounded by signs protesting the status quo, Gold demonstrated our national urgency to unite. That’s punk rock.
The momentum didn’t stop rolling with Liphemra, an oddball hip hop troupe, led by lead vocalist (and well known drummer) Liv Marsico, two producers turning knobs, three guitars, and at times, even two live drummers. (To be fair, personnel sometimes overlapped.) I could be glib and call it too many cooks in the kitchen, but if anything, it was the exact opposite. They played off of one another so well that there were very few stray notes among them. When it comes to gal to guy ratio, they were the least feminine of the acts of the night–Marsico was the only woman–but it is their love for music, art, and community that reminded me what Galentine’s Day is all about.
Lauren Ruth Ward’s grand finale was one worth waiting for. Though they were persistent throughout most of the earlier acts, she did not allow production issues to dampen the wonder of her live set. She ended up abandoning a guitar during a song due to the feedback, and used the time to dance like the provocative chanteuse that she is. Ward is an expressive human being that uses her limbs, facial expressions, and even instruments as extensions of herself to get to the core of who she is. And at her core, she is just a woman with a whole lot of love for everyone and everything around her.
During one of the final numbers of the night, Ward hopped into the crowd, prospective technical malfunctions be damned. She came nose to nose with many fans, who enveloped her in a circle in the middle of the dancefloor. As the song built up, she locked eyes with an older gentleman–the aforementioned man that had made the journey to Highland Park specifically for her late-night performance. A young, queer woman singing directly to an, ahem, distinguished white man, who delighted in his own bewilderment and appreciated the context of this night: these are moments that I hope to see replicated across the country. Mutual respect and understanding is exactly what makes this country great, and we will prove it. The next four years are just the beginning.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Lauren Ruth Ward performs again at The Hi Hat on March 7 as support for Night Talks March residency. Also on the bill, Holy Wars! This is an exceptional lineup of fierce female leads, AND this show’s free!
Lauren Ruth Ward will headline The Echo in support of her single release party on Sunday, April 9. SLUGS and Wargirl will support. Get tickets here.