Rainbow Girls Bring Color to Bay Area Autumn

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Scroll through the list of The Rainbow Girls’ past shows and you will find something strange. Amongst the folksy girl band’s presences at house concerts, music festivals, and small music venues appears: “Camp Tawonga 4th of July Concert!”

Picture the dining hall of a summer camp (parent trap, anyone?) – picnic tables pushed to the side, an assortement of wobbly chairs and worn-out couches fashioned into a semicircle, and a fireplace and wooden beams strung with fairy lights to illuminate the patch of empty floor, now called the stage.

The Rainbow Girls with their bare feet, smooth harmonies, and easy smiles fit in perfectly at the summer camp just outside of Yosemite. The trio entered the “stage” first: Erin Chapin, then Caitlin Gowdey, and finally Vanessa May. They were met by a round of thunderous applause which quickly faded into enthusiastic snaps as the counselors, gathered on the seats and floor, remembered that the younger campers were asleep and the older ones were told that this late-night staff activity was a “staff meeting”.

From the opening notes of their first song of the night it was clear that the Rainbow Girls were continuing their relatively new trend of intimate acoustic sets as opposed to their first few years of lively rock ‘n roll. They kicked things off with the song “American Dream” from their new album of the same name. The finger picking accompanying the lyrics, “Then I’ll have my family band/ make ‘em play the tunes that they don’t really understand/ then I’ll have my family band,” felt nostalgic and tastefully campy, fitting given the venue.

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The trio blended their set as well as their voices and flowed easily from one song to another. Eyes closed and bodies swaying, the guitar, hand shaker, and harmonica were passed from one set of hands to another while each woman took the center and the lead for the songs she wrote showing the impressive musical ability of every member. Although each voice were different mixtures or rich, light, smooth, and gravely, they melded together into one with an inexplicable ability to sing multiple parts at once.

Two of the standout songs were drastically different in tone but equal in grace. Lighthearted and harmonica heavy, “The Folk Singer’s Contract” eliciting appreciative giggles from the majority college aged crowd with lines like, “if we keep our hands in each other’s pants this won’t last very long”. This song stood in contrast and complement to “No Girls Allowed”. In this more thoughtful song written by The Rainbow Girls own Caitlin Gowdey, she listed all the bands she grew up with and then intoned that “there were no women in my favorite bands/ not any women at all/ when I was growing up/ when I was small”

The whole concert was a unique mix of ethereal and grounded. The Rainbow Girls’ good-humored commentary and the intimate setting balanced the dreamlike quality lent by the soft glow of fairy lights and delicate harmonies. After the final song, all the discretion of snapping was disregarded as the crowd rose to their feet in awe and gave a standing ovation.

After a month touring in the UK, The Rainbow Girls have returned to their native California. In the coming weeks they will be playing at various cities in the bay area. Notably alongside the T Sisters on Saturday November 4th at the Starline Social Club in Oakland. I highly recommend catching one of their shows before they embark on another overseas adventure.