Pride flags were donned over the shoulders of fans filing into 9:30 Club Friday night. Choppy haircuts in bright shades of magenta poked out underneath the black beanies of lucky concert goers, while doting fathers accompanied their underage, queer daughters to see their idol girl in red.
girl in red is the indie pop project of norwegian singer Marie Ulven, 23, who has become an icon of the LGBTQ+ community since 2018 for being openly gay and bravely using femme pronouns in her love songs. Her latest album “if i could make it go quiet,” released last year, is more polished and instrumentally dynamic than her early bedroom pop work, yet still embarks on an empathetic romantic journey of depression, sexuality and angst.
After the show opened with English artist Holly Humberstone, Ulven took the stage with the high-energy track “You Stupid Bitch,” wearing a simple oversized black t-shirt and baggy, army green pants, jumping across the stage with red lights flashing in rhythm.
Her fans made her friendship bracelets, screen-printed t-shirts and signs written in Norwegian, while every introductory note evoked their excited screams; whether it be a classic lo-fi track like “Summer Depression,” the crunchy, pop-driven “Body and Mind” or her most popular “we fell in love in October.” She picked up her baby blue guitar for “Girls,” mellowing out the vibe just enough to bring emphasis to the lines “This is not a phase, or a coming of age / it’s not like I can choose who I love.”
Ulven indulged in the angsty 2019 single “I’ll die anyway” just before jumping into “Serotonin,” an upbeat song juxtaposed with the darker theme of battling intrusive thoughts to achieve good mental health. She dove into the crowd as the band played on in her absence.
She courageously stopped the next song “Bad Idea” to attend to an injured fan, promising to meet them after the show to ensure that they were okay. With last November’s Astroworld crowd crush in mind, it was relieving to see an artist prioritize their fans’ safety over their performance.
Just before the faux end of the show, Ulven expressed appreciation to her fans before finishing with the perfectly danceable “Rue,” excitedly thanking them for “coming out…and also coming to the show!,” at first not realizing the double entendre she had made.
The band left the stage, and within 60 seconds returned to play the cheeky track “Did You Come?” and “I wanna be your girlfriend” just before the clock struck 8:30.
Ulven admitted on-stage that she doesn’t consider herself a professional musician, and even jokingly apologized to all the moms in the crowd who may regret paying to see her perform. However, her ability to transform any venue into a safe, emotional space for queer people is something not many professionals can even achieve through their music, let alone their persona.
girl in red’s youthful energy and candid banter made every song feel like a conversation with a friend, making it possible that in the coming years, her goal of World In Red may be a reality.
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