The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

Entry Requirements: All Ages. Under 14s accompanied by an adult. R.O.A.R
General Admission (e-ticket)
$16.62 + $1.66 s/c

ABH Promotions Present Girl Scout plus special guests Holler + Marathon

When lockdown hit the globe in early 2020, I couldn’t imagine anything great coming from it. Here in the United States, just existing was a burden not so easily carried. I moved to a new city to try and save a fractured relationship, which felt so insurmountable that all of my anxieties required new names. When we all finally emerged from our homes, I was convinced that COVID-19 took ample stock and must have harbored some shred of brilliance or hope. If you believe in destiny, then, perhaps, I can convince you that four people in Stockholm, Sweden found each other through music during the pandemic and started weaving the tapestry of a sound that would become so big and unbelievable.

I wish I could say that I stumbled upon Girl Scout’s music in some grand, mythological way. But, the truth is, I was temping at a news desk job for a music magazine and an assignment to cover the band’s first single was tossed into my inbox in the fall of 2022. I’d been doing music criticism for a little over a year at that point, but I’d never had the opportunity to break a band in any American circle. The song I had to write about was “Do You Remember Sally Moore?,” a bold, urgent first chapter in Girl Scout’s career. Any music act would be happy to release a song like “Sally Moore” at any point in their career, let alone have it be their introduction to the world.

Girl Scout—the quartet of Emma Jansson, Viktor Spasov, Per Lindberg, and Evelina Arvidsson Eklind—carved out a near-monolithic space for their debut single, and it rewarded a near two full years of being unable to tour the hits they were harboring. Jansson and Spasov met while studying jazz at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and would cover Burt Bacarach and Beatles songs while getting stoked on Stranger Things and Big Thief together. They had aspirations of making their music partnership into something larger-than-life, so they brought in their fellow Royal College of Music peer Eklind and Spassov’s friend Lindberg to fill out the band’s architecture. They’ve earned comparisons to everyone from The Breeders to Snail Mail, all while embellishing a sonic finesse that, often, outstretches those names in technicolor 4K.

I would soon leave that news desk gig and take on an editor role at Paste, where we were able to be the first American media outlet to cover Girl Scout with an extensive profile, dubbing them the Best of What’s Next (and rightfully so). The problem with breaking a band is that you are tasked with convincing everyone else why they should press play on a record—because, even in the streaming era, the amount of new music coming in is always bountiful and, often, hard to keep up with. But Girl Scout’s debut EP, Real Life Human Garbarge was a five-track wonder that required very little advocacy. Songs like “Run Me Over,” “Weirdo,” and “Attenborough Beach” shine because they navigate harmonics through technical and structural influence and do so in catchy, relentless ways. To be a student of jazz means you must understand what possibilities a song can hold before you even perform it.

I have witnessed Jansson have many moments similar to when Paul McCartney fashioned “Get Back” out of a humming melody in the Disney+ documentary of the same name. When I originally watched that clip a few years ago, I considered it to be special, yes, but par for the course of, quite literally, any musician who is also a songwriter. But to see it up close, to watch someone actually carve out a melody and verse and chorus through playing an acoustic guitar into the speaker of their iPhone, is something miraculous that I’d previously ignored. I’m not saying Jansson is the second-coming of McCartney, but Girl Scout exist someplace in-between the worlds of the Beatles and jazz. There’s a perfection in there that still has potential, as the band pulls patient pleasures from eras they didn’t even exist in but have strong, reverberating reverence for. For every earworm hook, there is a meticulous, fine-tuned approach to song construction that so few artists working today have even come close to mastering.

If you happened to be in Austin, Texas for SXSW in March 2023, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Across a half-dozen sets around the city, Girl Scout dazzled and stunned. Whether it was playing in the courtyard of a lavish hotel or on-stage at a hole-in-the-wall bar downtown, no space could truly contain the magnitude of the band’s ferocity. At Las Perlas, you could physically see folks in the audience opening Spotify and saving Girl Scout to their library for post-show reminiscing. When Spasov played the breakdown guitar sequence in “Do You Remember Sally Moore?” he nearly blew out his own speaker—which I was lucky enough to be stationed next to. But watching people fall in love with Girl Scout slowly and all at once, in different rooms, during the band’s first stint in the United States is one of my most cherished memories.

Now, the band are gearing up to release their second EP this year. Granny Music is another five-song continuation of their brilliance, shouldered by second single “Boy in Blue,” the best rock song of 2023 so far. Few bands can so deftly procure brash, mountainous noise without subduing the melody, but Jansson and Spasov’s songwriting chemistry has led to impeccable, unsuspecting algorithms within their own work. The songs don’t go where you expect them to, yet, somehow, they sound as traditional and electric as anything a young, hungry alt-rock has the resources to make. Children-of-divorce anthem “Mothers & Fathers” outlines Spasov’s anomalous shredding that can echo the brightness of Jansson’s pipes without siphoning too much of the light. “Monster” centers Jansson’s gutteral, rapturous, passionate vocals, while “Bruises” is a ballad with country influence that showcases her professionally trained vocal spectrum. There’s a reason she studied singing at the Royal College of Music: She can absolutely wail. And don’t get me started on “Millionaire,” which crawls through halves of lo-fi into a hi-fi goodness filled out by Jansson coiling her warbles into a trumpet. It’s like watching a demo transform into a mixed and mastered masterpiece in three minutes.

It’s damn near impossible to start a band these days, and it’s even more impossible to actually make great music once you do. Girl Scout figured out the formula before even making a full-length LP. Their trajectory arrives without a ceiling. Perhaps the moon is the only viable landing spot for Jansson, Spasov, Lindberg, and Eklind. Perhaps that is too minimal of a distance, as well.

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