Girlpope's last show
Friday night in Mohawk Place.
The Buffalo independent music community came out in full force on Friday evening to bid farewell to Girlpope, one of the most consistently exciting original ensembles our city produced over the last decade-plus.
Musicians, fans, writers, producers, engineers -- the place was packed, and the momentous occasion was marked by what can only be called a celebratory sadness tempered by a palpable sense of community. Man, we hate to see this wonderful band go.
But for three hours, Girlpope -- Mark Norris, Rich Campagna, Brandon Delmont and Tommy Stanford -- gave us all they had and reminded us why we'd loved them so much all along.
A great Girlpope gig has always been about blending the cacophony of primal garage rock with the sweetness of pop melody, and in this, the band connected to a rich tradition of British Invasion brilliance and American power-pop and punk.
So Friday's show -- a sort of career retrospective that covered the band's punk roots, its later power-pop sophistication and the broad array of cover material it always successfully integrated into its own oeuvre -- offered what we'd come to expect. Humor, irreverence, a punk/DIY attitude commingled with a readily apparent reverence for what has long been the core of rock music -- great songs played with a sense of existential release and a commitment to inhabiting the moment. Loose but tight, and all that.
Flanked by a wheel of tunes located stage right, and after an emotional introduction from Missing Planes drummer and former Pope manager Matt Barber, the band hit the ground running, as feelings ran high, the crowd went nuts, the beer flowed and the magic reared its head.
Audience members were invited to spin the wheel between songs, and the group would play whatever tune the ticker landed on, which lent an air of spontaneity. It also provided for some moments of both high and low comedy, which will have to remain in the memories of those in attendance. (We won't forget Jimmer Phillips' spin, will we?)
From the first downbeat, the show was a raver. Delmont's thunderous, rolling and roiling style, cymbals crashing, fills tumbling, suggested a Keith Moon with jazz chops; Stanford's guitar solos and melodic fills were Dave Davies- and Pete Townshend-inspired razor wire; Campagna's bass thumping with trebly conviction and melodic nuance pushed the locomotive along; Norris' power chords and passionate vocals were complimented by a possessed stage strut, like James Brown moonwalking after slugging down a whole pot of coffee.
The songs, some like long-lost friends come home for the holidays, some as familiar now as favorite sweaters, rolled forth in quick succession. The band was clearly ready for this show, and intent to make it one to remember. "Let's Hear it for the Single Girl," "Teenage Jesus," "Indy 500," "So Far As Now," "Bad Habits," killer takes on the Kinks' "Picture Book" and the Who's mini-opera "A Quick One" -- it was glorious, all of it.
And it was telling that the band's own songs were just as powerful as their heady choice of covers. Parting in this way was sweet sorrow. But like everything the band did over its decade-plus run, Girlpope handled this farewell with panache and good humor. They left their sweat on the Mohawk stage, and their glorious noise echoing in our ears. We'll miss them.