The second I walked into the venue, I knew this show was going to be memorable, and definitely one of my favourites I’ve attended. It’s fairly small with practically no barrier between audience and musician, perfect for a nice intimate show. The room consisted of young adults, wide-eyed teens, and their parents. The crowd grew with anticipation each minute, especially when the stage slowly began to set when smoke from machines filled the air and dazzling red lights illuminated the snakeskin-like backdrop.
The pre-show music suddenly went silent and the crowd started to chant Isaac’s name. It was very clear that he had already gained a following in Montreal when I looked around and saw the majority of the audience going nuts. Isaac Dunbar, his drummer, and his guitarist/keyboardist promptly took the stage and kicked the night off with one of his recent singles, Ferrari. Several people sang along to every word while he hopped around the stage with his mic.
Throughout his set, he’d keep our eyes fixed on him as he’d sway and align his body movements rhythmically with the drums. He then started talking to us about the first song he wrote called Freshman Year, a chill track that addresses the struggles of being ostracized in high school. He said he wrote it during his freshman year in high school, which was not too long ago considering he is only 16 years old.
He then continued to capture our attention with his dreamy pop melodies, dancing so much that his necklace was flying everywhere. His performance was so exceptionally captivating that his set seemed to finish in minutes. For Isaac Dunbar’s last song, he played another one of his singles called Pharmacy and performed some very impressive vocals alongside his fantastic band members. When his time on stage was up, Isaac Dunbar sweetly said his goodbyes and left the stage, leaving those of us who haven’t listened to him yet eager to do so once we get home.
GIRL IN RED
The wait was abruptly put to a halt when the red lights shut and the venue went completely dark. The room was filled with animated screams as we were greeted by Girl in Red’s drummer, guitarist, and bassist taking position with Girl in Red, aka Marie Ulven, in all black following closeby. They immediately started the show off with her newest single Bad Idea as she grabbed the mic and took charge. Everyone began to dance and jump around, shouting the lyrics right back at the performers in unison. We could see straight away that the band members were great friends by the way they’d interact with one another, their dynamic being full of life and cheery.
As the final words were sung, Girl in Red was once again hit with a surge of chants and praises coming from her audience. Compliments were being thrown back and forth, really making it feel like we were all on stage together. Girl in Red then grabbed her icy blue Telecaster guitar to continue on with songs from her first EP, Chapter 1 and one of her many Soundcloud bops, Rushed Lovers. The crowd ate it up and stayed deeply connected with her songs about love, obsession, and depression.
After playing Summer Depression, Marie Ulven was telling us how much she loves the French language and how cool it is that we all can speak it. She suddenly said something that sounded like our national anthem, and the fans began to sing it excitedly as one. The performers were taken by surprise and proceeded to grab towels to wave at us while we chanted. Every moment in between songs was never wasted and charged with endearing interaction amongst listeners and performers.
Once a few more energetic songs flew by, the vibe calmed down a bit as Girl in Red played two of her heartwarming love songs, We Fell in Love in October, and Watch you Sleep. The people appreciated this tender moment and swayed along to the mellow drum beats in tranquillity. I found it very easy to get swept away in that surreal feeling that immediately enters my brain whenever I hear her songs, admiring her and the band as the red and blue lights softly reflect off her guitar.
Girl in Red was then handed signed pride flags along with a lovely portrait of her drawn by one of her talented fans. She went on to talk about acceptance and expressed her deep gratitude for our dedication to her music. She stated that she felt really comfortable and safe here with us and the moment almost didn’t feel real. As the night went on, the time had come for her to play one of her most iconic songs, Girls. The crowd went wild as the soothing notes from Marie Ulven’s guitar made contact with their ears, the stage was set with warm blue lights during the blissful verse, but the moment the chorus hit, the room was embellished with multicoloured lights, the right level of harshness to merely be kissing the audience and band members as everyone chanted along with Girl in Red.
Right after, an unacceptable announcement was made. She said she had only two songs left, but would have to cut one out due to her very sore throat. Her devoted fans refused to skip a song and insisted we sing it for her. Girl in Red said we could only sing it if we promise we know all the words. We promised we’d make her proud, so she handed the mic to the audience and started to play Say Anything. Each person in the pit turned towards the microphone and started to shout the lyrics towards it. People were passing it around to sing into it with their friends then passing it over to the next person, continuing the chain. It was ethereal to be a part of, that moment felt like something out of a music video. Girl in Red and her band were watching us fondly as we performed her song to them harmoniously.
As if the evening couldn’t get any better, we came to the final song on the setlist, her anthem about unrequited love, I Wanna be Your Girlfriend. During this bittersweet moment in a concert, everyone knows we must give it our all and more to end the night off with a bang. The guitarist would get right in front of the audience’s faces to play and the crowd got even louder. By the time the chorus would hit, everyone and their dads were practically leaping along. Right before the bridge, Marie Ulven declared that the pit was too small for her to get into with us, meaning she would have to pull us up on stage. It was so exhilarating to see fans being led up to the stage by Girl in Red herself, demolishing the already non-existent fourth wall. The stage rapidly became full to the brim with giddy teens ready to dance right by all the performer’s sides. We shouted the final chorus together with Girl in Red as her and her bandmates hopped around with us. It was an unreal experience, and once those final moments of the song hit us, we all couldn’t believe it was already over.
Marie Ulven wished us a good night and a safe drive home as she exited the full and chaotic stage. It truly felt like the most personal and intimate show you could possibly attend. The night was enriched by her copacetic setlist, her ability to guide the crowd through it effortlessly, wholesome conversation, and storytelling. It was sincerely a safe place full of accepting people that understood each other regardless of being complete strangers. We all anticipate her next visit, hopefully, our vocal cords will be recharged when that time comes.
SETLIST (Isaac Dunbar)
- WOMAN ON THE HILLS
- FRESHMAN YEAR
- BLUEBERRY BROWS
SETLIST (Girl in Red)
- BAD IDEA
- RUSHED LOVERS
- SUMMER DEPRESSION
- I NEED TO BE ALONE
- FORGET HER
- WE FELL IN LOVE IN OCTOBER
- WATCH YOU SLEEP
- ILL DIE ANYWAY
- DEAD GIRL IN THE POOL
- SAY ANYTHING
- I WANNA BE YOUR GIRLFRIEND
Review – Jamie Siddall