Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Sidney Gish Brings Unique Lyrics, Powerful Vocals to ’Sco

Abe Frato
Sidney Gish played live at The ‘Sco Monday, April 15.

Hastened thank yous and immediate drops to the stage to change the settings on the looper pedal after each song encapsulated the awkward timidness of singer-songwriter Sidney Gish who performed at The ’Sco Monday evening. I had not previously heard of Gish’s music, but when students waiting in line for the show told me that she was perfect for the Oberlin crowd, I gained a good sense of what I should expect. Visiting our small Midwestern town for the night, Gish welcomed the audience by the nickname “Ohio,” leading us into her quirky nature and playful humor. She lacked the loud aura that most musicians tend to possess, instead showing us humility in the form of jeans and another artist’s merch. I could easily mistake her for an Oberlin student. 

This rather mundane description is not to discount the fact that Gish displayed immense talent. With no need for a backing track, she showed us the process of the instrumental herself with just her guitar and looper pedal. Starting with a few strums, she let the audience into a glimpse of her creative technique. Each additional loop contributed another dimension of the story she was about to tell through her voice and lyrics. In fact, her lyrics were what I anticipated the most. College second-year Sylvie Cove had waited four years to see Gish live, being one of the first in line before the doors opened.

“I really love her lyricism,” Cove said. “Everytime I listen to her music, I feel like I’m hearing a story that makes no sense and all the sense in the world at the same time.”

Gish’s song titles were fitting for the overall strange, comical tone of her songs. A few notable titles included “I Eat Salads Now,” “Sin Triangle,” and “Presumably Dead Arm.” While listening to her lyrics and carefully attempting to match the shapes she created with her mouth to the vague sounds I grasped when the music grew louder, I was consistently lost; at no point did I know where the song’s story was going. I would say her music was like poetry, but Gish does not try to be profound. It was more like a version of her personal diary that she was singing out loud — a scribbled documentation of her college years she was sharing with our curious ears. College second-year Hunter Harnphanich described his progressing perspectives of Gish’s music as he gained a more authentic understanding and relatability of it.

“I’ve been listening to Sidney Gish since I was 14, but now as a college student, I understand a lot of her songs in a closer way to how she originally intended,” Harnphanich said. “I found a lot of her music when I was younger, but I was an edgy teenager, and now that I’m becoming an adult, a lot of the things that she sings about are so much more intimate and parallel to the things that I’m actively experiencing.”

During most of her songs, Gish sang with intensity and intentionality, enunciating each word and even breaking down single syllables within words through harsh breaths. She sang as if to confidently express her journal entries to the crowd, who was happily singing along to each chorus like the entries were their own. The guitar’s sound matched the energy of Gish’s voice and lyrics, possessing an edge that was satisfying with every word it amplified. College first-year Owen Neaman recounted this electric factor.

“I think that there is a certain intimacy to her music that is common with most singer-songwriters,” Neaman said. “Unlike other singer-songwriters, there is this roughness and ruggedness that I like more — a more electrified sound. I think that she is doing something that is more idiosyncratic.”

With Gish being a relatively well-known artist, many students were surprised to find out that they would get to see her performance for free at The ’Sco on a random Monday night. College third-year Charlie Kline discussed the process of turning their idea into a reality.

“To book an artist, you really just send an email and do a bunch of paperwork,” Kline said. “I started sending emails in January because I saw that Gish was gonna be in the area, and I thought that she would be popular at Oberlin because she has the Oberlin vibe. Oberlin students are not super upfront about how talented they are, and she’s kind of like that. Her lyrics are so realistic, personable, and relatable. She’s so funny in this awkward, self-deprecating way, but not in a way where it’s an act.”

The most memorable moments were the quiet ones. When the set transitioned to softer, mellower songs, the lyrics were clearer and flowed smoother. Under the vibrant ’Sco lights, voices were more audible, stepping away from a loud concert’s chaos and toward the endearing reminiscence of friends circled around a bonfire. At one point, the bright notes of Gish’s guitar sounded like stars scattered around the room, and I decided to close my eyes and float for periods of the song. Gish’s diary entries had reached an era of calm tranquility, past the trauma and angst of adolescence. 

“It makes so much sense to bring Sidney Gish to Oberlin,” Harnphanich said. “Even though her music isn’t conventional, a lot of people love her. This is the type of show where a lot of the people who haven’t heard of her beforehand will leave loving her music.”

More to Discover