Slow Pulp Live is Sad Music for Happy People, or vice versa

by Stephan Boissonneault

I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t really know Slow Pulp, an indie/ heavy bedroom pop four-piece from Wisconsin, until a few weeks before their sold-out show at Bar Le Ritz. But boy damn, was I given the opportunity whenever I flipped through my Instagram or any music site. Their new album Yard, was dominating my social feeds with advertising months before it was out, so I definitely knew the name. Maybe that’s because of their signing on ANTI-, or Slow Pulp blowing up over Tik Tok, but either way, the name Slow Pulp was always in the back of my mind for the few months leading up to their Bar Le Ritz show.

But on one fateful October night, a friend played me their song “Slugs,” and I immediately felt the appeal. The 90s alt-rock and shoegazey edge, ala Mazzy Star, mixed with crushing emo-esque lyrics and lead singer Emily Massey’s hazy and gargantuan-sounding vocals. But nothing could really prepare me for their live performance at Bar Le Ritz, which I’d say was one of my top surprises of the year—and I see a lot of shows.

As we (the same friend who showed me Slow Pulp) entered the room, I realized I had never seen the room this packed before. It felt like waves of people smashed together like bugs under a microscopic glass. We grabbed a spot and checked out the last song of opener Babehoven, and man, do I wish we had seen more of them. It was a bit Alvvays meets Big Thief and their album, Light Moving Time, is gold. A perfect opener, whom I imagine will be back with their own headlining show soon.

Then out came Slow Pulp, and for some reason, I had pictured Emily looking more rough and punk rock, but she seemed so innocent standing there in a purple sweater with her cherry red SG. Yet, the moment she sang a song like “Cramps,” or “MUD,” her voice filled the room and conveyed her vocal prowess. Her ability to sing an almost whisper and then belt out a powerful sustained note is nothing short of extraordinary. And the band, so unbelievably tight, with a highlight having to be their ‘guitarmonies’ for a few short lead lines. This band knows exactly when to lay it on thick and when to hang back and let Emily do her thing.

“It’s crazy to me that you’re all singing the lyrics to these new songs and that really makes us feel good,” Emily said to the crowd. Musically, there have been many bands like Slow Pulp throughout the ages—the female-fronted alt-indie bands like Alvvays—but their simplicity and overall refined sound feels like a warm collective hug to get sucked into. The songs are related and find that perfect equilibrium of being catchy and heavy at the same time. The band of course ended with their most popular song, “High,” about, well, being too high, almost to the point of greenout—a situation much of the crowd could relate to.

photos by Stephan Boissonneault

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