“Girls to the front” was the rallying cry of riot grrrl, designed to encourage women to take up space at gigs. Dream Wife are picking up that same baton with their Bad Bitches Club - a gender-inclusive community that wants to create safe spaces at shows and embolden gig-goers to be themselves. UK fans have already been inducted into the crew and tonight, for the first time, it’s New York’s turn.
“If you have a reservation under the name Bad Bitch, please attend,” Rakel Mjöll tells Baby’s All Right midway through the band’s set. The singer begins rearranging the crowd in front of her, beckoning women to move forward as she tells men to step aside and let them through. It’s an important moment that, followed by ‘Somebody’, feels increasingly powerful and poignant. “I am not my body / I am somebody,” Rakel yells into the mic as guitarist Alice Go and bassist Bella Podpadec back her up with barbed riffs that weave artfully around each other. It’s nothing short of exhilarating to see ladies flocking to the front of the room, egged on by the three women owning the stage.
Even when they’re not explicitly empowering their fans, Dream Wife are revelatory. Each member is so compelling to watch, it’s hard to know exactly who to focus on - Alice cheekily spitting a mouthful of water over the crowd, Bella twitching and jerking with every note, or Rakel grinning broadly through each song. ‘Lolita’ sounds fiercer and more dangerous than ever, its brooding atmosphere quickly softened by the spiky but scintillating pop of ‘Fire’. ‘Love Without Reason’ begins with Rakel sweetly singing its opening lines to Alice, while the radiant rush of ‘Kids’ is enough to make you want to grab everyone in the room and head out on an adventure.
During penultimate track ‘F.U.U’, the frontwoman first hoists herself onto the monitors and leans over the audience as she gleefully hollers out the song’s rousing lines: “I’m gonna fuck you up /Gonna cut you up, gonna fuck you up”. Soon, she’s in the crowd, pulling women towards her again and dishing out hugs to as many people as she can reach. It’s another heartening moment in a set full of them - a glorious show of solidarity that leaves a warm buzz around the room even after the trio have downed instruments and called it a night. Dream Wife are the girl gang we need right now.
Photos: Coen Rees