On the release of her album, In a Poem Unlimited, now a year and a half old, U.S. Girls’ creator and frontwoman, Meg Remy opted out of an exclusive press listening party and instead took a handful of music journalists and fans on a guided van tour of “site of injustices in New York City,” all of which reflected themes in the album. Remy, calm, poetic, and shrewd, described through a headset, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the abuse and exploitation of Marilyn Monroe, the amassed wealth of the Catholic Church, and of course, the damaging psychology of Trump and his gaudy New York Tower.
In doing this, Remy made her art less about her, and more about her message of deep-rooted societal misogyny and female oppression and the manifestations of that message in America's past and present…while driving a 10-seat passenger van through the streets of Manhattan.
This is an impressive woman.
Remy has appeared on stage in DC as U.S. Girls 4 times in the past three years, with stage set-ups ranging from a tape machine on a folding table in at Comet Ping Pong to a 10 piece ensemble at the 450-capacity Union Stage. She is as versatile in her live performance as she is in her music. In a Poem Unlimited’s 11 tracks borrow styles from ’50s and ‘60s retro pop, disco bangers to modern DIY electronics. The upbeat tone of nearly all her songs brilliantly veils the serious themes of her work; sexual oppression, political exploitation, American militarism, and the failings of capitalism.
She may be off of an album cycle now, but her message is still sharp, both timely, and perennial. Like a cutthroat progressive missionary, she returned to the capital of Trump’s America on Sunday night to enthrall a slightly smaller crowd at U Street Music Hall with her confrontational poise and an exhilarating ensemble of musicians.
Her decision to collaborate with a wider group of musicians is what elevated this album and live show above her previous work. The striking concepts in her albums were properly heightened by two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, saxophonist, charismatic male vocalist doing double duty on the keys, and Kassie Richardson, her longtime live vocal partner.
Similar to how Remy slides honest and uncomfortable narratives in her shimmery retro pop, the set was a cool, cleanly executed show, leading up to an unexpectedly chaotic and unhinged finale.
The album, and the show’s closing track, “Time” was given a lengthy outro with each instrumentalist and vocalist taking a few minutes to really lose themselves in the most experimental and improvised stretch of the set. Remy and her two vocalists repeated mantras in breathy, echoing whispers while the saxophone trailed off into eerie, atonal tangents.
The song faded slowly, but never fully ended before U.S. Girl’s keyboardist/vocalist began pacing and convulsing around the stage repeating “I feel compelled/I feel compelled” and the band picked back up into an even heavier hypnotic jam. Remy perched on the end of the stage yelling “are you gonna die, standing in that line?” over and over, to frenzied effect. Shoes off, she hopped off the stage and began to dance through the dense the crowd.
In the dark venue, it was hard to make out where Remy wandered off to, and the crowd’s attention was torn between the band’s wild shredding on stage and turning back to see if they could spot Remy. Right before dancing back on stage, Remy could be seen in the wide open space between the bar and the crowd, dancing on her own; feet hopping, head down, having a moment to herself… at her own show. An epitome of low-key cool.
It was an exhausting and exhilarating conclusion that, once the band had completely cleared off stage, left the crowd electric.
Whether as a perceptive lyricist, enthralling bandleader, or critically astute tour guide, Meg Remy and U.S. Girls are here to open your eyes.