Guts Club
The Rock Shop; Brooklyn, NY

Coming from Long Island, I arrived at The Rock Shop just toward the end of Laser Background’s set, which was amusingly falsetto with an earnest twitch of reality. And as he destaged and Guts Club ascended, I ordered water, a beer, and a shot at the bar, intermittently smoking away anxiety outside, waiting for the show to start. Coming back in, the lights in the back of this (legit) venue illuminate a well-stocked audience ready to hear the bravery of The Arm Wrestling Tournament.

Behind Guts Club, as she began in (mostly, I think) order of her newest album, was a projection of an actual arm-wrestling tournament, set with tables, referees, two [people] fist-locked, and pads everywhere. Atop this image are flickering drawn hearts and other smaller boxes depicting professional wrestling and muscle competitions. Occasionally, the screen also would flash “FINISH HIM” or “FLAWLESS VICTORY.” All this, paired with her lightly strummed acoustic guitar and crackling voice; the juxtaposition levels were insane. However, this dichotomy was turned into something pleasant, as Guts Club was noticeably nervous as she cracked jokes, which made people applaud and “woo” after each song. The irony of this is people making a big deal about dreary topics, to which Guts Club would giggle at their audible admiration, then transition songs with, “This one is about Marine Biology,” or “That involved aliens.” Then, just before renaming her set the “Acoustic Cafe,” she tossed out a tooth-whitening kit, encouraging the winner to use it immediately.

I began to admire her packaged aesthetics. I don’t mean packaged in a consumerist way, but in the coalescence of lightly stroked guitar, vocals of uneasy confidence, and the humor of school-lined notebook cartoons. Her writing is akin to Xiu Xiu (in terms of heavy personalized metaphor) sung with the same dry poise of Jana Hunter, backed by the sort of humor Gnar Tapes hits on the sly.

As The Arm Wrestling Tournament release show was coming to a close, a lot of the emotions Guts Club was building up to bubbled-up inside me, and as the video behind her was coming to the final contenders, there were stagnant ties that kept going. But this is arm wrestling, so I’m standing there with this emotion of “BEAT HIM BEAT HIM!” as she sang “I wish my dad could beat everyone’s ass every year” from the track “Down in Daytona,” and my mind was just going through TONS of emotions, joyously. Typically, I’m not one to focus on lyrics unless something is repeated and twerked with digitally via sampling, OR if they sound like inside jokes and I can interpret them how I like; the latter is the case with Guts Club. Thus, this climax sent me into a head-space that was equal parts nostalgic, sad, and fearless, walking out as she said “Goodbye,” leaving a smile on my face.

• Guts Club: http://www.iamgutsclub.com

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