U.S. Girls played a show at the Turf Club last night along with co-headliner Sweet Spirit and special guest Calvin Krime. Throughout the hour-long set, U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy rarely paused between songs. In fact, I’m not sure the full band ever quit playing, and only barely slowed during interludes while Remy and others continued to move to the music.
In 2007, Remy began U.S. Girls as an experimental solo project, a collection of minimalist sound collages created with a four-track recorder. The name originated as somewhat of a joke, made more ironic when Remy relocated to Toronto.
Last night, U.S. Girls opened with “M.A.H.” (“Mad as Hell”), a song that encapsulates the distinctly political tenor of her latest release, 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited. “The war rolled on and on, I left that land my home/ We watched your hair go grey, that stressful manly shade/ You wore it well, no one could tell the situation was held/ But lies shone in your eyes,” she sang critiquing Obama over a grooving bass.
Remy spoke with the Creative Independent in 2018 about her music’s political overtones: “I have no choice in the matter — I have to talk about these things. It’s what I want to talk about. It’s what I think about. It’s what I read about. It’s the connections that I see,” she said. “I think if you have good intentions, and you can stand behind them and you’re leading with love, then most likely you’re doing something okay.”
In a Poem Unlimited is Remy’s most danceable work to date, and throughout the performance, Remy made efforts to engage the audience. During “Sororal Feelings” off 2015’s Half Free, she knelt low and threw her arm out into the crowd as if preaching the lyrics to a congregation. Near the end of “Pearly Gates,” she crouched again, flanked by a fellow singer and keyboardist like a Greek chorus: their faces close together, staring out into the stage lights and singing in a round.
At one point during a moody, saxophone-driven interlude, Remy leaned on a fellow performer and closed her eyes, only to jump back into action again by whipping out a towel and wiping her brow theatrically like she had almost forgotten where she was.
“I don’t really separate music from the rest of the practices I participate in,” Remy told the Creative Independent. “Writing or collage-making or filmmaking… it’s all my artistic practice, so I’m always creating something even if it’s not something that anyone else can so or hold in their hands. My main reason for doing all this first and foremost is for my own survival and humanity.”
The culmination of the performance was a drawn-out dance break wherein Remy hopped the stage into the crowd and began dancing with various audience members — some of whom were clearly taken aback, not having expected an interactive experience. She circled all the way to the back of the Turf Club and wound up dancing with one audience member by the merch table, eventually making it back to the stage with the special guest.
“What’s your name?” Remy asked the woman.
“Jill,” she replied.
“Jill, Jill, Jill,” Remy chanted rising slowly from the ground. “Everyone thank Jill.”
“Who cares what you look like or what you sound like — who cares!” Remy proclaimed at the end of the set, the first time she addressed the crowd collectively all night, before dancing off stage with Jill as the band slowly faded.
The night’s opening performances by Sweet Spirit and Calvin Krime mark yet another on-stage reunion for two musicians — Calvin Krime being an early project of Sean Tillman AKA Har Mar Superstar, who unites with Sweet Spirit frontperson Sabrina Ellis to form Heart Bones — a duo performing at Rock the Garden on June 29 just as U.S. Girls did last year.
Sweet Spirit’s performance involved just as much movement. Ellis kicked her red sneakers into the crowd, held out her arm for an imaginary dance partner, and twisted around in an apron-turned-halter top that she later told the crowd she’d received judging a Minnesota Hot Dish competition.