It is always a unique feeling going to a concert and experiencing someone’s music transforming from something you listen to through headphone, into a full-body experience. It is event more special when that person is a small, relatively unknown artist, someone who started from covering songs on YouTube and is now on one of their first tours. Finding Orla Gartland was a combination of a chance recommendation produced by YouTube’s algorithm, and being spammed with her videos by my music-studying cousin. This combination is what led to me standing in a room full of screaming 16-year olds and their chaperones, anxiously expecting Orla’s appearance on stage so we could all finally start crying.
Orla’s presence on stage is a unique combination of Irish sarcasm, social awkwardness and extremely expressive facial expressions. Her live performances range from acoustic guitar folk, bass-heavy pop-rock and depressing piano ballads. Starting with some of her more recently released works that are self-titled as existential pop, and then moving on to some of her older stuff, she also treated the audience to two previously unreleased songs – Oh God and New Friends – that were only available to her secret demo club. In-between songs Orla joked around, pointing out how weird it is to have a room full of people shouting, “why am I like this” and “maybe you don’t really want me there at your birthday party”. Her interactions with the audience, whether that was starting her own chant as Scottish audiences usually do, or ‘opening up the pit’ as she said, really made the audience a unique experience. Explaining the stories behind the songs I’ve listened to on repeat in my bedroom was a surreal experience, especially when those songs came out when I was experiencing the exact same situation and needed to hear their message.
What makes Orla’s song-writing relatable is her ability to word painfully accurate situations into catchy lyrics. Never before have I felt less alone than listening to her describe her experiences with social anxiety and overthinking. Mental health is hard to write about and even harder to sing and dance to, but Orla’s genuine approach made everyone feel a bit less alone in their struggles. Orla’s response to people saying they relate to songs like Why am I Like This and Overthinking is “Thank you, but also sorry you feel this way”. I am sure that everyone in the audience, would also like to say the same to her.
[ Meli Vasiloudes Bayada – @meloukka]
[Photo credit: Orla Gartland/Facebook.com]