U.S. Girls: Live at DC’s Union Stage
Canadian-American art project U.S. Girls, helmed by vocalist and writer Meg Remy, has made a name for herself with sharp political commentary under layers of psychedelic pop (take Obama diss track “M.A.H.” or anti-capitalist anthem “Poem”), but her latest record, 2023’s Bless This Mess, was largely reliant on fun. This was a message felt throughout Union Stage this Tuesday, where U.S. Girls took the stage to perform songs from that album and other critically acclaimed works like Heavy Light and In A Poem Unlimited.
The night started with a set from a former touring member of U.S. Girls, Jane Inc., a robotic ideal of a pop star whose disco and synth-heavy music made her a perfect companion for Remy’s ideas. The highlight of her set was the 8-minute “Dancing With You”, an ode to pandemic dance parties, where, halfway during the song, she joined the crowd to dance along. She performed other instantly catchy songs like “Human Being” and “2120” — if you’re a fan of U.S. Girls’ sharp tongue and provocative lyricism, Jane Inc. should be next on your list (her 2022 sophomore album, Faster Than I Can Take, is a wholly innovative listen).
U.S. Girls took the stage to perform “Only Daedalus”, “So Typically Now”, and “Futures Bet” from Bless This Mess, three of the record’s poppiest tracks. “So Typically Now” is reminiscent of the hard-hitting lyricism, critiquing wealthy people with the means to escape to upstate New York after the pandemic hit (“You need a time out / Ask and you shall receive”), and is a reprise of some of the inescapable sounds of her earlier work, especially “Incidental Boogie.” She also performed the title track, which she introduced as a “summary of how we’re all feeling right now.” In it, she assumes the role of a messenger with a direct link to God, who wants to tell the people that we’re doing the best we can. “There’s nothing unnatural under the sun / Everyone’s a baby at the start of this run / So thank the sky for the deluge / Forget your nightmares and the dreams that didn’t come true,” she sings, some of the album’s best lyrics.
Fans of her 2020 album Heavy Light were moderately placated with performances of “IOU”, “Woodstock ‘99”, and “4 American Dollars”, but the refusal to play that last track as a stripped-back rendition, instead of the absolute jam it presents itself in, was kind of a lull. That song’s studio version, as well as “Y Se Mueve” and “Overtime” from the same album would have made a great addition to the frantic energy Bless This Mess cultivates.
However, during a lyric from “4 American Dollars”, “You were living in a cashless dream”, she interjected, “Like this bar!” Union Stage is cashless, and after the song, she asked the bartender if they received more or less tips because of it. The answer seemed to be about the same. “It’s a weird thing you gotta do,” she said of tipping, “But you gotta tip, right?” Much of her songs revolve around money and the perils that come of it, and at three points she introduced songs with this theme. “If I could give the money back I would, but I need it,” she said while discussing the tour. “Until we get rid of it, we gotta pay each other.” The same sentiment was present when she performed “Poem” a song that, she mentioned beforehand, was sold to a company beginning with the letter G that scooped the track to use in a commercial for a new device. “You all know who I’m talking about”, she said, but mentioned that the company probably didn’t listen to the lyrics of the anticapitalist track: “No one needs to make a profit, no one needs to get paid”, the song reads.
She ended with “Pump”, a meditation on bodies and how motherhood transforms the body into a machine designed for one purpose. Remy gave birth to twins in 2021, and the song sampled the noise from her breast pump for its instrumental. During a monologue, she talked about trust and how it shouldn’t be earned, because that word is reminiscent of money (“There I go, talking about money again”, she said.) “I trust everyone in this room,” she said, just for giving her our time, and she ours, before creeping off the stage, leaving the band to play the concert out. Only at a U.S. Girls concert will you get incredible music and philosophy all at once.
Words by Sam Franzini
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