Donning a green crayon costume, Clairo brought her brand of bedroom pop to Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points on Halloween night. Combining intimate lyrics with authenticity, Clairo showcased her youth and charm by exuding self-awareness throughout the show.
Claire Cottrill, known by her stage name Clairo, grew up in Carlisle, Mass., where she began recording music at a young age. After posting music on YouTube, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, she first gained attention when her single “Pretty Girl” went viral in 2017. Earlier this year at the age of 20, Clairo released her debut album, “Immunity,” which reached No. 51 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The release of “Immunity” propelled Clairo into mainstream recognition, and in October, Pitchfork named her single “Bags” one of their top 200 songs from the decade.
The first delicate piano chords to her opening song “Alewife” echoed throughout the room. Clairo sauntered onto the stage, her presence met by emphatic chants from the audience. Clairo was not the only one who had dressed up for the holiday; the crowd was saturated with bright costumes and makeup. One concertgoer was adorned in a flower crown as Dani from “Midsommar” while another wore a bear costume. Halloween created a unique environment for the concert, encouraging audience engagement and inclusivity.
Clairo has largely been considered part of the recent rise in bedroom pop, a subgenre of pop characterized by minimally processed, do-it-yourself music that could be produced in a bedroom. Typical of the bedroom-pop style, much of Clairo’s music opts for gritty, lo-fi vocals. Songs like “Flaming Hot Cheetos” showcases hushed vocals layered over a minimal, looping beat. “Get With U” and “2 Hold U” follow a similar formula, juxtaposing gentle lyrics with gauzy synth backing. The environment of the concert seemed to mimic the musical style. Grainy, home movie-esque landscape videos filled the half-moon backdrop, and lighting changes were kept to a minimum. Though her music is lo-fi, Clairo impressed the audience with her live vocal prowess.
Early in the set, Clairo performed “Bubble Gum,” switching out the ukulele from the recorded version for subtle guitar chords. Here she stood softly by the microphone and glided through the verses, adding melodic runs that punctuated her vocal talent throughout the performance. Although still largely dominated by the bedroom-pop aesthetic, “Immunity” also contains songs with higher production value. “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” the album’s most powerful track, is broken up into two parts. The beginning starts slowly, with piano highlighting Clairo’s minimal lyrics. As the song progresses, the tempo speeds up, transitioning into a more upbeat R&B cadence. Ultimately, the singles off of “Immunity” combine glossy, DIY aesthetics with higher production value, creating deeply moving moments like “I Wouldn’t Ask You.”
Typical of the genre, Clairo’s lyrics reflect a contemplative relatability. Many of her songs revolve around the uncertainty that comes in the period between adolescence and adulthood. In songs like “Impossible,” Clairo explores the temptation of connecting with an ex-partner, admitting, “I just wanted to hear your voice so clear.” Recently coming out as “not straight,” several of the singles from “Immunity” explore queer relationships. Clairo cried, “Give it to me!” as she broke into her hit single “Bags.” The audience obliged, singing along enthusiastically, “I can’t read you, but if you want, the pleasure’s all mine.” Immediately after “Bags,” as the first few drum beats of “Sofia” began, the crowd erupted into the loudest cheers of the night. A sacchrine and romantic song, “Sofia” explores first crushes and the stigma of queer relationships, urging, “Sofia, know that you and I/ Shouldn’t feel like a crime.” “Bags” considers similar themes to “Sofia,” examining uncertainty in first-time queer relationships. Her music feels like thoughts from a diary, giving the audience an intimate relationship with the singer.
As the show came to a close, Clairo brought a stool to the front of the stage, announcing that she had one last song, a new song she had written while on tour. The room fell quiet as she crooned with an undeniable tenderness. The song came to an end, and the audience’s cheers were deafening. Clairo lowered her guitar, holding her face in her hands as she broke into tears, seemingly overwhelmed by the audience. She held the mic close and whispered a soft “Thank you” before leaving the stage.
After a moment, the singer waltzed back on stage for the encore, performing “RACECAR,” “4EVER,” “Pretty Girl” and “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again.” During “Pretty Girl,” the music video was projected onto the backdrop, featuring a young Clairo singing along to the song, sporting pigtails and a sweatshirt. In this moment, with her younger self projected behind her, Clairo was her most personable, laughing at her own cheesy dancing and awkwardness. Throughout the show, she possessed an unquestionable star quality, completely captivating the young crowd. And yet, she seemed approachable and knowable. Clairo built an intimate relationship with the audience, so much so that it felt like we were watching a close friend perform in front of us.
As the final song “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” ended, Clairo took a moment to look across the audience.
She stepped close to the mic. “I’ll never forget this show,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
I am certain I will never forget this show either.