LIVE: The Regrettes @ Empire Live, 03/05/2022
Who are The Regrettes?
That was the question to wrestle with last night at Empire Live, as the Los Angeles band played their third show in Nippertown in a little over four years. They are led by noted frontwoman Lydia Night, who at 21 years old has been demonstrating her talent and precociousness for over nine years on the national stage. Her first band (Pretty Little Demons) was the youngest act to ever play South by Southwest. Their debut EP Hey! got them signed by Warner Brothers, and by the following year, the now-renamed Regrettes (with all new members other than Night) were releasing singles and touring with the likes of Sleigh Bells and Kate Nash. Their reputation has continued to grow, with their third full-length album (Further Joy) due out next month.
Stylistically, who are the Regrettes? That is a more interesting question to consider. They have always tread a middle ground between punk, pop, garage, and even 60’s era girl groups. Their earlier material and image definitely favored the edgier, punk side, but they were never the riot grrrl paragon the press tried to pigeonhole them as. Yes, some of their songs are rebellious and loud in all the right ways. But some of their songs fit perfectly on pop radio and would please your mother if she heard them at the mall. This is tricky terrain to navigate. It can show great versatility. It can also lead to an identity crisis. Last night, we saw a little bit of both.
The band opened with “Come Through”, a 2018 track that the healthy Pearl Street crowd was quick to show their appreciation for. This was followed quickly by “Dress Up” and “California Friends”, both off their solid 2019 sophomore effort How Do You Love? It was clear to see that this young crowd were already fans. They knew these songs, they already had a connection to the group (in particular to Night). This crowd would take no convincing to have a good time and have a good time they did.
The group’s vibe was (somewhat surprisingly) very ‘80s and very very LA. Nothing wrong with either one of those things on their own, but for The Regrettes, it put me a little off balance. For a band already bouncing between multiple genres, the introduction of an ‘80s aesthetic was perhaps a little too much. (I’m not 100% sure if it was intentional or accidental). And look, the band is from LA, so of course, an LA vibe is appropriate. But this was a very antiseptic, very clean, and polished LA style. If you were looking for any grit – musically, visually – you were left wanting.
Besides Night on vocals, the band consists of Genessa Gariano on guitar, Brooke Dickson on bass, and Drew Thomsen on drums. Gariano holds her own on stage, playing a striking orange guitar, though last night she needed to be mixed about twice as loud. There are interesting guitar parts in some of these songs, but it was hard to hear them shine last night. Dickson and Thomsen also have their moments (Dickson on the otherwise weak “Pumpkin”, Thomsen on “I Dare You” and the rousing “Has It Hit You?”), but for the most part, disappear behind Night. Night, for her part, deserves every bit the accolades she receives as a frontwoman. She is comfortable and commanding, and uses every inch of the stage and beyond (including vertically).
The highlights were very strong. Last year’s “Monday” was an early set bruiser, and easy to see why they named their tour (“Get the Fuck Out of LA”) after this song. “Picture Perfect” was nearly just that, as Night dropped into the camera pit, not for the last time. “Go Love You”, wrapped inside of Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”, was good fun as well, with all band members gelling nicely. And the aforementioned “Has It Hit You?” hit that stylistic middle ground in almost perfect Regrettes fashion.
In between these undeniable gems were some less successful moments. These tended to be the poppier numbers. ”Pumpkin”, for example, was a little deflating save for Dickson’s work on the bass. Toward the end of the set, the introduction of “That’s What Makes Me Love You” (released two days ago) had expectations high, but ultimately disappointed. And new song “Anxieties” took the band to an almost unrecognizable place. It was this back-and-forth that held the show from being next-level good. If you’re going to repeatedly exhort the crowd to “get in the pit”, you can’t take two-song forays into (admittedly well-executed) pop.
Happily, they closed out strong. “Seashore” is an anthemic classic, and was every bit as fun and rebellious as you could hope for, live. Set closer “More Than a Month” was also a solid, punkish way to exit the stage. Interestingly, the two-song encore was a microcosm of the show itself. “You’re So Fucking Pretty” is a song that unfortunately just lays there, title aside. But “Poor Boy” brought back the energy and the fun, including Night stepping behind the drums and Thomsen having fun on the guitar. This spontaneity, this small element of danger and humor… this is what I’m concerned The Regrettes are moving away from.
So who are The Regrettes? They’re neither punk nor pop, though it seems they are clearly moving more in the direction of the latter. Their Avril Lavigne cover was telling, perhaps indicative of the space they will eventually inhabit. I’m a little nervous that as they shed their edge and their grit, they will lose what made them so special in the first place. But it should be noted – I’m a guy in my fifties. I am not their audience. And the audience last night responded very, very well to everything they played, old and new. Maybe Night and the band aren’t worried about “who they are”. And if they’re not worried about it, why should I?
Kississippi (a project of Zoe Allaire Reynolds) played a half-hour of likable if somewhat forgettable pop to open the show. It was graciously received by the crowd, however, and ultimately provided an appropriate lead-in to the headliners.
- Come Through
- Dress Up
- California Friends
- I Dare You
- I Love Us
- Picture Perfect
- Girlfriend (Avril Lavigne cover) / Go Love You
- Has It Hit You?
- Juicebox Baby
- That’s What Makes Me Love You
- More than a Month
- You’re So Fucking Pretty
- Poor Boy