Aquadolls Bring Indie-Alt Self-Love to Subterranean
By Justice Petersen
If Kat Stratford (Julie Stiles) from “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) was a real person and existed today, she would absolutely adore The Aquadolls.
Combining influences from retro girl groups of the 1960s with modern indie-rock influences, The Aquadolls write softer Riot Grrrl music that they beautifully describe as “mermaid rock n’ roll.” Consisting of Melissa Brooks (vocals, guitar), Keilah Nina (bass), and Jaqueline “Jacky” Proctor (drums), they perform with fun chemistry and quirky personalities that will make you fall in love with them and their energy by the time their concert is over.
Currently, on their Spring Fling Tour, the band played on the second floor of Wicker Park’s Subterranean on Friday night. With no opening acts or other headliners, The Aquadolls went into their performance straight away. Before the show began, Melissa was running the merch table, selling cute t-shirts with designs for their upcoming third studio album Charmed (out June 2), tote bags, patches, and free hugs.
The indie punk trio performed under pink lights in front of screaming fans. Some of these fans in the crowd were the members of PINKSQUEEZE, an indie queer punk group based out of Chicago. Writing music that sounds like bubblegum pop with an edge, The Aquadolls write songs for girls who wanted to give their Barbie dolls really bad haircuts. Their guitars are loud but their vocals are soft and soothing; The Aquadolls’ music serves as a balm for those who may have found themselves at one too many hardcore punk shows in a short amount of time and now need something punk yet soft to bring them back to center.
The Aquadolls opened with the track “Burn Baby Burn” from their recent EP “Far Far Away.” The group may be praised for their ability to perform some killer cover songs. At this concert, they covered “Take Me Away” from the 2003 film “Freaky Friday” and “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s. The Aquadolls are an amazing group because they recall similar vibes from girl groups of the past, such as the Go-Go’s, the Ronettes, and even the Runaways, but they give their music a modern indie twist that creates a sound and vibe that is so unique to them.
Along with these covers, The Aquadolls played through several of their most well-known tracks and playing through every song featured on “Far Far Away,” including “Sneaky,” their most recent single, and “Beachy,” a song that listeners will find addicting for its retro summer sound and positive affirmations in the lyrics. In “Beachy,” Melissa sings, “Fuck it, love yourself, die hard.” In this one lyric, they’re able to emulate and express everything that The Aquadolls is all about. Their music is simultaneously relaxing and invigorating; it reassures you that nobody is perfect and everything will be okay, yet it fills you with a fire that makes you want to throw all these fears and worries out the window.
The band also played a song called “Spotlight,” which they describe as a “Sapphic love song,” that’s going to be featured on their upcoming album Charmed. The Aquadolls write songs that capture love in all forms, whether it’s for yourself, for your friends, or for a romantic partner (both the good and bad ones). An Aquadolls concert is like one long and continuous positive affirmation for yourself. As you stand under the brightly colored lights and let the guitars and drums ring through your ears, you realize you’re surrounded by other people just like you. An Aquadolls show is like hanging out with the coolest girls you know for two hours straight (and you’re reminded you’re one of them too).
The Aquadolls are currently on their Spring Fling Tour. Their new album Charmed comes out on June 2.
AQUADOLLS SETLIST FOR CHICAGO:
Burn Baby Burn
Sick Sad Mofo
Far Far Away
Take Me Away
Guys Who Sk8
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May 12 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
May 14 – The Drake – Toronto, ON
May 17 – Loving Touch – Detroit, MI
May 18 – House of Blues (Cambridge Room) – Cleveland, OH
May 19 – Subterranean – Chicago, IL
May 20 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
May 22 – Encore at Uptown Theatre – Kansas City, MO
May 23 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO
May 24 – The Vanguard – Tulsa, OK
May 26 – Club Dada – Dallas, TX
May 27 – White Oak Music Hall (Upstairs) – Houston, TX
May 28 – Mohawk – Austin, TX
May 30 – Lowbrow Palace – El Paso, TX
May 31 – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ
June 1 – House of Blues (Voodoo Room) – San Diego CA
June 2 – The Moroccan Lounge – Los Angeles, CA (album release show)
June 3 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
June 4 – Cherry Festival – Beaumont, CA
October 1 – Ohana Festival – Dana Point, CA