Shirley Gnome brings her provocative music back to Vancouver


At 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, my boyfriend and I found ourselves at Little Mountain Gallery, an intimate, down-to-earth venue on a side street off of Main. The next street light was 20 metres down the road. The odd car passed by every so often; other than that, it was relatively quiet, with the occasional laugh from a nearby cafe drifting lazily across the night air.

There was a completely different vibe inside the gallery — that of the perfect intimate theatre. We were enveloped in positive energy that radiated off of the bare walls, hummed beneath the music, and burst forth from exuberant conversations taking place around the room. We were right on time for the show, but there were still people trickling in.

Shirley Gnome stood by the ticket booth and welcomed us, excitedly recognizing The Peak and offering me a small clip-on pink hat. It was a miniature version of her own sparkling cowboy hat, and every woman in the room was wearing one; for 90 minutes, we all sat in smiling, laughing, female solidarity.

Shirley Gnome wowed me — and just about everyone else in the room — with her stunning personality and gorgeous voice. Gnome gives off a very light-hearted vibe that pulls all those in the room together. She would purposely mess up on camera (it was a live recorded show), joking that they could always edit it out later. You know you’ve got a commanding, likeable presence up on stage when you can get the entire room to erupt into enthusiastic, loud farts in amazing synchrony on command.

I can’t speak highly enough of Gnome’s voice; she was so versatile, able to sing anything from songs with a country spin to soft rock and pop. She captured the entire room from the very first note she let out. She was preceded by Scarborough, a singer-songwriter who impressed the crowd with his improvised songs about household items, and gave her just as much praise as the average audience member.

What makes her truly talented is her keen and discerning consciousness about the world, which really shines through in her lyrics. The greatest compliment you can pay a writer is to tell them that they listen well, and Gnome definitely listens to what the world is telling her. She skilfully gleans social norms, cues, and mannerisms from conversations with friends, and from random observations of the most normal, everyday situations, giving birth to her brilliant, subversive, and ironic lyrics.

The show was pure gold, flowing through the audience and making us all feel rich. Don’t be fooled by the most obvious theme of her albums, with titles such as C*untry Music; even though all of her songs are about sex, most of them have really positive messages, and are downright hilarious. I can’t really say more without giving too much away, but during those 90 minutes, we heard songs about bad sex dreams and glittery vaginas (literally). Shirley Gnome is a magical musical wonder. Look out for her; she’s a star on the rise.