Girlyman at Shank Hall

By - Oct 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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How do you know you’ve made it as an Indie-Gender-Folk-Pop group? Is it playing to a crowd that sings along to almost every one of your songs? Witnessing members of your audience placing the now ubiquitous concert calls to friends who couldn’t make it to show? Or is it being called back to the stage, not once but twice, for encores? On Friday night, Girlyman had all of this and more as they played for an enthusiastic crowd at Shank Hall.

Before they took the stage, their long-time friend Adrianne played an opening set comprised of original songs that were both well written and well performed. She did play one cover in a nod to the “music of her youth” – the song she referred to as her Cheesy Embarrassing Eighties Favorite, the Thompson Twins’ classic “Hold Me Now.” She won over the cheese-heads and closed her performance by saying, “I’ve only played in Milwaukee a few times and every time it’s been cool. And tonight is infinitely cool!”

Girlyman echoed Adrianne’s sentiments by saying repeatedly, “People are nice here!” It’s not hard to be nice to a band that is as humble as it is talented. The three members of Girlyman – Nate Borofsky, Doris Muramatsu and Ty Greenstein – played their own brand of folk music and told the crowd stories about their lives.

The setlist consisted mostly of songs from their April release, Joyous Sign, with a smattering of material from their first two albums and a couple of numbers thrown in to make the audience laugh. They cut up onstage to an impromptu “tuning song:” as Ty worked to get her guitar ready for the next number, Nate and Doris sang what started as a schmaltzy ballad and ended with an overstated and hilarious chorus of “We’re not going to tune it/No, we ain’t gonna tune it” to the melody of the old Twisted Sister song.

A particular standout from the new album was “Reva Thereafter,” written by all three band members to help Nate work through his grief following the death of his grandmother. Before the song, Nate told the audience a little about her and eloquently painted a picture of a strong, determined woman who took her own life at 95 years old. “You wrote the letters one by one into the setting of the sun/Tell me, what was it like to send yourself into the light that night?” When he openly sang of his pain, we could feel it with him.

Isn’t that the ultimate goal of most songwriters? To make your listener feel? As the members of Girlyman interacted with each other and with the audience, we all became invested in the stories that they told in each song. Doris’s profession that her optimism inspired “Good Enough” (“Somewhere back in time we made each other laugh / And I could see how that was good enough”) was sincere and heartfelt, and Ty’s confession that
”Hey Rose” is about a dark period of time when she tried to seduce straight women (“It’s like any other day, Rose/You won’t lose a thing, and no one else will ever know”) all rang with the sincerity the band has shown since it started performing together six years together.

After the show, I waved to the three of them as I left. People seemed hesitant to let the evening end and Girlyman was still hanging on, laughing at each other’s jokes and signing autographs for their fans. They all agreed onstage during the show that they love touring and, throughout the night, it was obvious that they meant it. VS

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