Due to an unfortunate Uber snafu, I arrived midway through the first song of Charly Bliss‘ Friday night set at The Echo, but it was almost worth being late to feel the electric pull of the music from the sidewalk outside the little club. The air itself felt magnetized.
I walked into a scene straight from some simpler, less pretentious time. The Echo was packed, everyone breathing each other’s air and joining in a kind of hive-minded head-bang. Eva Hendricks was a blur of platinum blonde and teeth. The band played to her infectious energy.
Hendricks’ presence onstage is how I would imagine life-size punk-rock Barbie to be. More than once I caught myself wondering, “is she for real?” The soft, little girlish voice, the self-aware eyelash batting – it all seemed simultaneously masterfully affected and entirely natural. (Then again, isn’t that how most things are – half real, half something you saw on TV once?) In any case, this isn’t a criticism.
I think I find Hendricks’ Charly Bliss persona so compelling because it captures a paradox of femininity that I find exhaustingly familiar.
She spits doe-eyed innocence through bloody teeth, singing sweetly about how she laughed when her boyfriend’s dog died. “Does he love me most now that his dog is toast?”
Women, tell me if this rings a bell: when you were three years old, you figured out that when you bat your eyelashes just right you got the last cookie from the cookie jar. A few years later you tried it again and no one grounded you for punching that kid on the playground. It’s not hard to figure out the lesson here: being cute gets you shit. Out of trouble. Into clubs. Free drinks. Among other things.
It gets to where you kind of can’t tell how much of it is a performance and how much of it is just who you are now.
And that’s about the point you realize that the whole thing has been a setup. Because by the time you find out that the reason people adore you is the same excuse they give for refusing to take you seriously, it’s already too late. If you drop the act, you’re a bitch. If you keep it up, you’re just *so* cute. Aww.
Eva Hendricks is so cute it’s practically weaponized.
In her throat, coos and giggles are razor wire. A pout is a live grenade. She channels rage through baby talk. It’s refreshing to see sweetness exposed for the act that it is; to say out loud: “I didn’t make the rules, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win the game.”
The band’s quick set included all my favorites from their recently released debut, Guppy, as well as a brand new song (“our first long song,” Hendricks confided with a smile) that audience members were encouraged to thrash along to. They finished with an encore that included sense-abandoning shredding and dance moves from the whole band. Don’t miss these ones live.