Concert Review

A Non-Fan’s Review of the julie Concert

On a Monday night, I stood at the edge of the moshpit- the event horizon, my body delineating physical security to those behind me- a perfect location from which to drink in the atmosphere and peruse the faces of fellow young people as they melted into the ferocious wall of noise and flesh they were so vivaciously facing. Guitars shrieked, people thrashed, the room got darker, the walls closed in, and the sea of hair and sweat rose, and rose, and rose…

Then, in a shocking moment of clarity, I realized: I hardly know this band.

Well, they’re called julie- with a lowercase “j”- and they rocked. Despite their recent clout (approaching 28 million streams on their first single, and a few others creeping towards ten), despite their student radio buzz, and despite their October 30 gig at Kings selling out shockingly quickly, I didn’t go into the show knowing exactly what to expect. I’d heard of them… but never properly heard them.

A friend of mine got a ticket before they sold out, and after I was offered an extremely last-minute ticket (I sent the money during class the same day), I decided to ride along. 

It was the right decision.

Like a bunch of new-generation artists, julie’s Spotify discography is notably short. Since 2020, they have released four singles and a six-track EP clocking in at a combined thirty-five minutes, making for interesting expectations going into the show.  It’s natural to survey your thoughts before walking into a concert, and I certainly did; how long was the set going to be? How will they fill the space? Will they play every song?

While I can’t say which songs they played, and as such I can’t tell you if they played everything they had on Spotify, their set was nonetheless fantastic. The energy was raw, the emotions were real (and validated by the audience, who, by the way, were pretty exclusively around college age), and the playing was tight. 

There’s three musicians in julie, and despite being a trio, they managed to bring an enviable sonic fullness and delightfully looming stage presence to bat. Their music is done in a ragged grunge-esque style; they take momentous distortion and occasional bouts of atonality and whip up thematically and texturally rich (and addictive) tunes which didn’t fail to cause a stir at the gig.

Their angsty, dark aesthetics did not go unnoticed; the band’s artistic sensibilities played into the music seamlessly, and these sensibilities were not challenging to pick up on. The bassist/lead vocalist brought the popular nu-gaze, Gen-Z-grunge rotten-doll aesthetic to the forefront, channeling heavy Kim Gordon vibes with her twisted yet on-the-nose vocal performance and rock-solid bass duties.

The guitarist spun distorted melodies and executed beautiful intermissions with ease (and sung wonderfully too), and the drummer (seemingly a budding Zach Hill fan) kept things impeccably tight throughout, with brief yet effective solos that complemented and magnified the band’s loving harshness.

On the topic of noise; julie were very noisy. In between many of their songs were intermissions of beautiful, pedal-y feedback, mainly led by the guitarist and the bassist. Song outros were added, extended, amplified and experimented with in real time. The huge walls of din and moments of electronic sampling managed by the bassist added needed tension to the relative sameness of the set and contributed to the band’s readily apparent dark aesthetic.

Herein lies my sole complaint.

As a non-fan (and this goes for almost any artist with a cohesive sound, really), I began to notice something. Recall how I noted their short discography? The set was, ultimately, long. Surprisingly long. I believe it went close to if not over an hour.

While this could be passed off as artistically valid fan service- and to be fair, I did find it pretty impressive- I found that many of the songs began to blend together, with similar tempos and vocal lines, and dynamics that were roughly the same throughout the set.

The band did make an effort to separate their tracks, and to provide periods of rest (hence the aforementioned “intermissions”), but I very occasionally found my interest in the music towards the end of the set faltering at certain points. These feelings were far from the norm, but I did leave the venue with them in the back of my head.

My friend at the show mentioned that this issue could be the effect of having a discography consisting largely of singles, as opposed to album tracks that ebb and flow. But hey, I’m not a dedicated fan, so what do I know; pretty much everyone else there seemed like they’d disagree with me.

Ultimately, I’m super glad I went. The opener was killer (a fresher band by the name Deux Visages), presenting much hookier and marginally more accessible songs compared to julie, while maintaining a similar aesthetic. They had a charming (and far from offputting) air of inexperience, but still played excellently. It was the perfect opener for a more esoteric, darker lead act, and provided the perfect appetizer for what was to come. I left the show satisfied; it’s one of those sets where it leaves you curious for what the future holds for an artist. julie is a band to watch for sure.

Next time, I’ll do my homework.

-Mike Utt

Band/Artist Profile

Track Review: “my little tony” by bar italia

bar italia are going back to the garage.

For those unfamiliar, bar italia is a London, England-based band specializing in their own brand of moody, off-kilter and charmingly experimental guitar alt-pop. It’s hard to square them into a genre, but the ol’ reliable “post-punk” label may be a half-decent signifier for curious ears.

Recently, bar italia released their newest single, “my little tony”.

“my little tony” is the first single from their newly announced upcoming album, entitled The Twits (releasing November 3rd on Matador Records). “tony” throws aside the slick, dynamically matured and produced sound of their previous release, “Tracey Denim”, in favor of a surprisingly raucous sound and rawer sensibility. 

It’s a tune that rambles as much as it roars. 

Things kick off immediately upon hitting play. Guitars- already around peak volume- charge in, blended together with the delightfully distorted bassline in a thick soup of rock-and-roll bliss. The chords are a bit muddled in the cacophony, but not enough to warrant concern. It’s fun.

Nina Cristante’s playful and smoothly mocking vocals follow almost immediately; “your pretentious ways… make me die a little,” she sings, humbling an ambiguous subject (Tony? Is that you?). The rest of her first verse continues in a similar fashion, and her refrain “keep playing with my receiving hand… ‘cause you know you lost the game” plays well after the home-run hook that gets laid down by the band. Things repeat and continue.

The brief instrumental towards the end of the song provides a fleeting break from the loopy structure, but when the refrain begins again, you find yourself feeling as though there are perhaps adjectives besides “loopy” that better characterize the continual nature of the track. Maybe “awesome” is a better word. Or perhaps you’re too busy tapping your foot to care.

The track ends the same way it began: without apology.

Alternating between spaced-out, delightfully dusty yet infectious late-night-walk-home rock and lushly charged indie that nears a description of anthemic, bar italia’s last album “Tracey Denim” was a hooky, thoughtfully produced crop of moody bangers. Things seem to change with “my little tony”; whereas “Tracey Denim” recalled the darker, more geometric songwriting of early-2000s Pinback or Interpol, “tony” harkens back more so to loosely spun garage influences of the same era.

The band retains its edge and recognizability with their simple, catchy vocal lines and hallmark London aesthetics, and despite its heavy strumminess, the track fortunately manages to avoid straying too close to the unforgiving gravitational pull of the (arguably) overly revivalist (and now dated) garage rock sound of the 2010s. “tony” is familiar, but thankfully it doesn’t beat a dead horse. Both Tracey Denim and “tony” prove that a certain degree of referentiality is okay, and bar italia knows this more than anyone. 

Does it set off alarm bells for a shift in their sound? Perhaps it’s a bit early to tell. But make no mistake- this is still the bar italia we love- and they (and I) think you should stick around for more.

Watch the music video for “my little tony” below.

-mike utt