On a drizzling Thursday night, I clutched my jacket while navigating the labyrinth of scarlet shops within Chinatown’s cobbled streets. The Emerald on Gore Avenue is discreetly tucked away from all the clamour of its historic neighbourhood. Tonight’s show, presented by UBC’s radio station and frequent music facilitator CiTR, includes local up and coming groups Failing and Echuta. Also featured is Victoria native Nasstassia Ellefsen, stage name Old Girl, with a blend of haunting vocals and nebulous synths that had me captivated. I walked through the venue’s green doors trimmed with gold and ascended the rugged stairwell. The glittering chandelier entranced my eyes with its playful incandescent nature. Every room is inquisitive from the windy halls ways to the twinkling globe lights. The Emerald’s bathrooms are delicately illuminated with a soft pink effervescence. Within them are white cabinets stocked with vintage porcelain dolls and trinkets. I made my way to the Cabernet and sat by the bar, which was adjacent to the small stage. During the intermission there was electrifying live music, which was playing in the main dining room wafted into the cabernet. The colourful syncopated jazz beats and rhythms was a fulfilling appetizer.
Old Girl graces the stage with dishevelled blonde locks, ripped denim blue jeans, a mustard yellow blazer and brown combat boots, after the first performance from Echuta, the experimental guitar and drums duo. After a short delay and some confusion regarding the soundboard, Old Girl asks that the bright fluorescent lights be dimmed for a cosier atmosphere. Once all the technicalities are taken care of, she starts off her set by playing “Help Me to Embrace.” This song has a lo-fi drumbeat paired with a growling guitar baseline filled with ang. The melody is intoxicating. She bellows a loud, rich mournful cry almost as though she is reaching out to the other enamoured souls in the audience to aid her with her feelings of distraught. Her set is a compilation of moody synths paired with cathartic drum beats and gritty, riveting noises. With each song on this record, she demonstrates that she will continue to push the boundaries of experimentation and distortion. Objet a is atmospheric, eerie and transcendent. She has been able to carve out a unique niche for herself with; decadent soulful vocals layered ingeniously with reverb, modulation, and delay effects. Her vocals are so celestial and resonant that I catch myself being sucked into a vortex of oscillated electronica. While playing her song “Beast,” a chilling cathedral piano hymnal layered with other woozy effects, two girls within the audience start twirling and doing the robot serenely. I look into the crowd and see people closing their eyes like they were savouring every sweet drop of Old Girl’s heavyhearted set.
Old Girl sways back and forth, with open palms and closed eyes. At times it appears as though she is in a private meditation session. In between songs she hastily takes a swing of her beer and discusses topics such as heretics, being burned at the stake, and her sadness about the death of Leonard Cohen (who had passed away that day) and closes the show dedicating a glittery rendition of “I’m Your Man” to him. She jokes about getting off the stage at one point, which led to the audience pleading for her to stay, she grins deviously and obliges. As she departs she tells the audience how “lovely and beautiful” they were. While encouraging them to keep “grooving out!” The audience responded with loud whistling, whooping and hand clapping, pleased with the cosmic show they had just witnessed.
Photo by Yana Kalanzi. Check out Old Girl’s music here.