Kate Bollinger sounds like a rainbow

Miller Arts Scholar played an intimate show with fellow U.Va. band Inning

img-4032

Most of the audience sat around Bollinger’s bouncing, bright white Skechers, gazing up at her like kindergarteners enchanted by the cool teacher who sings. 

Courtesy Elliot Van Noy

The Apartment Kyle has no central air conditioning system, or at least it felt that way with 40-odd concert divers who risked the pits of their cuffed shirts for ice-cold IPA and the charming, echoey sounds of Kate Bollinger and Inning. On one of the walls in the living room that served as the stage, a rose-tinted television played clips from the “Simpsons,” “Adventure Time” and other cartoons. Although marketed as a “stripped down set,” nothing about the musicians was amateur, except for the upside-down pot and big keratin container used by the drummer of Inning that probably came from the apartment’s kitchen.  

Self-proclaimed “UVA party band” Inning has released songs like “Frash Brad,” which has a cover of a hand holding a fresh slice of airy bread. One of their most popular songs “D.C. Party Machine” details not-so-extravagant nights spent roaming the streets of the capital with a bottle of rum against a steady rising drum, or in this show, a keratin bottle. This song also features lead singer and fourth-year Evan Frolov sharing “and every blonde girl thinks I’m tight,” in half-joking confidence. Inning’s sound calls to the distinct drive in modern indie rock of Car Seat Headrest-eque levels of sharing everything and anything that’s happening internally, constantly teetering between relatable and “did they really just say that?”

This kind of established personal touch mixed with the casual venue created continuous comments between songs like, “This song is about being 12,” before playing a cover of the Killers’ “When You Were Young,” where “young” is changed to “12.” Their goofiness pervaded the set, but they mostly gave a performance of original, quick beats with sullen, sinking vocals, prefacing the danceable songs with “this one is kinda dancey.” 

During Kate Bollinger’s set, there were members of the crowded room standing and swaying, but most of the audience sat around Bollinger’s bouncing, bright white Skechers, gazing up at her like kindergarteners enchanted by the cool teacher who sings. She was a little older than a kindergartener when she first had a songwriting notebook and wrote on drives visiting her older brother at school and sang aloud to her mom, a music therapist.

Bollinger sang softly and laughed loudly at her question to the crowd — “Does anyone have a tuner? I think my guitar is out of tune.” If it was out of tune, her playing still captured the room and made one friend in the audience yell over and over, “The name of this artist is Kate B!” for those wondering who the charming musician in front of the microphone was. 

St. Vincent is one of Bollinger’s biggest influences because “she shreds.” Kate Bollinger shreds too, on a black electric Yamaha, just a little softer than St. Vincent does. In another moment of intimacy that seems pretty inherent when you’ve been playing the guitar since the sixth grade, Bollinger played a song while a friend held her famed songwriting notebook up for her to read. Another held a flashlight to brighten Bollinger’s face even more than it already was lit up, a fan waving loose strands of hair around made her appear as angelic as she sounded.

This reveals so much about Bollinger. Not that she can’t remember her songs, although she admits seriously a fear of this happening — “I’m afraid I’m going to forget the words.” Instead, it shows her generosity to share projects that still sit in her songwriting notebooks with a room full of people, her will to bring her melodic voice that sings lines that might be poems or lyrics or probably both, fully fledged into careful songs detailing the reality of being a scared human. In her song “A Couple Things,” Bollinger sings, “Well what if I f*ck up everything,” and leaves the question completely unanswered, letting the truth of not knowing sink in. It also says that she’s constantly pursuing something completely new — like her current pursuit of a project called LAMB, named after Gwen Stefani’s clothing line, where she plans on creating something folksy but electronic. 

One listener at the show remarked that Bollinger’s voice sounds like a rainbow. It’s something so beautiful that it feels secretive at first glance — or listen — but immediately becomes, “Look! A rainbow!” just because it’s impossible not to spread the luck. That’s what you feel when you listen to Kate Bollinger — lucky.

related stories