All-Girl Acoustic Gig Wows at The Yacht Club

Photo by Jeannette LaPointe.


On Friday, April 14, Ilana Hope opened the Yacht Club for an acoustic Girl Gig of five talented artists. 

Their door is open, and only partly because the night air is warm.

You kick off your shoes into a growing pile by their back porch, brush past the chatter of folks breaking into some fresh guac, and accidentally slide straight onto the main stage that is two steps from their kitchen. You are illuminated gently, not by a spotlight, but by hanging Christmas lights, by a TV glowing silently through a playing of The Wizard of Oz, and the dancing reflections of watches and phones on the wood floor. The crowd around you is murmuring softly, shaking hands with new friends and fawning over the birthday-dog that waddles around from couch to couch.

On Friday, April 14, Ilana Hope opened the Yacht Club for an acoustic Girl Gig of five talented artists.

I sat down with Hope, hostess of the house and booker of the show’s events. Dressed in a gentle smile and a denim jacket adorned with pins that make her resemble a well-decorated military general, she takes a few moments away from last-minute adjustments to the house’s aesthetic.

“To me, a good show is if all the people performing and all the people attending are comfortable. That’s the big thing I try to do at the Yacht Club,” she says. “I try to make it as safe and inclusive, as nice a place to be as I can– that’s what I care about.“

The seating is plentiful and indeed comfortable, with couches, stools, and a single rocking chair set up to face the stage. Enough newcomers filter in that, nonetheless, the floor begins to fill with sprawled limbs, often intersecting with one another. It is easy to follow the literal writing on the wall that says to “MAKE FRIENDS, BE HAPPY.”

“As much as I like basement shows, it’s nice to have something more calm. It’s a nice break from some of the heavier scenes around,” Hope says. Her mission is to make the community ever more welcoming. “It’s a little more accessible for everybody; so people who don’t usually go to shows because they don’t like that atmosphere of being somewhere crowded and hot and moving around, they can go somewhere else and still enjoy music.”

The first performer, Melanie Zerah, makes her entrance with her guitar in tow. She swaggers up to the stool and then curls up, making herself small as she plinks and plunks a few small chords, testing out the night’s amplification to her instrument. We perk up, ready for the show.

Zerah notices, and glances up to the audience. “I’m just gonna look down; it’s what I do,” she jokes. Ilana steps in to turn down the amp. Mel looks comfortable, finally, and the concert begins. She’s new to the guitar, she admits, but that doesn’t stop her from shining once she starts on her first song.

Her setlist is short, intentionally, the songs simple and fragile. Her selection is from a set of breathy indie artists that communicate loss in their lyrics, that deal with power and lack of control. Yet deep tones in Mel’s voice occupy a central space in the otherwise wispy soundscape that the chords provide, an anchor of self-assurance that complicates, if not outright rejects, any first impressions of her self-doubt.  

She finishes her set with a song by Gregory Alan Isakov, “Big Black Car,” a fluttering solo piece akin to Bon Iver or Iron and Wine at their most bittersweet. For this and every future show, she knows she’ll be ending with this memorial. It makes her think fondly of her friend Tom, who recently passed away.

“The only time I heard him play guitar, he was playing that, and he was singing it,” she says, with a smile and no tears in sight.

A somber note to end on, but the show must go on. The next local performer, Portia Apple whips out a baritone ukulele and takes the stage with only a moment’s rest between sets. She highlights for the audience a picture of Jesus that she found on campus, and remarks that together with him and the giant picture of Madonna behind her, she’ll find the confidence to put on a show.

“For an atheist,” Apple clarifies, “I sure sing a lot about Jesus.” The room laughs along with her. Her set sets off with a bang, alternating between a ethereal originals set to fingerstyle and belting out an upbeat rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The crowd hoots and hollers for her as she throws up the horns with a grin.  

Soon enough Rachael Soliru, with the stage name Nobody’s Babe, takes command of the stage. And man does she make an entrance. With pop-punk influences that come from her experience working as part of a larger band, Soliru scoffs at the stool and microphone that are set up for this acoustic concert and breaks into an impromptu set-list of power chords and melodic roars that include both Miley Cyrus and explosive originals that link mental health and past relationships.

Although this acoustic performance is certainly not the norm for Nobody’s Babe, she takes to it with style. Impulsive and bold, she drove up from Long Island at Ilana’s request to dominate the stage as a solo artist. Her voice resounds off the walls with her original, Boys in Blue, strumming primarily downstrokes and insisting “And when you get stopped by some boy in blue / You will be thinking of me / And I won’t, I won’t be thinking of you!” Dancing with relentless energy, she sends high kicks well above our heads, and after a finish that leaves her and the audience breathless, she mimes a quick curtsy and a military salute to cheers.

To get her start, Soluri says, “I just recorded using a Rock Band microphone and toilet paper as the pop filter in [my friend’s] bedroom.“ By the end of a single summer evening in 2015, she had put out a 6-song EP, Mildly Upset, and this force shows no signs of stopping. Having won a recording contract at her school, she cranked out a 14-track record in late 2016, and plans to continue to work as an artist. Find her at, or stop by the city this Sunday 4/23 to see her live with her full band at the Brooklyn Bazaar.

It feels as if the world get darker when June Cahill, known as Flower Housewife, begins strumming her electric guitar in a Drop-D tuning. Her songs aim to confront, to provoke, to question, and not just for the audience. It is a form of emotionally prostrating herself, she explains, and the range of her work never veers from raw intimacy. She wrestles between songs about taking hormones off the black market, despite warnings that it might give her a heart attack, a shameless retrospective of her time as a Mall Goth that she entangles with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” and a moment’s pause to read a spoken-word on gender reassignment surgery by her queer heroine Kate Bornstein.

Along the way, June explains that some of the material is seemingly incongruent with the rest. “I used to do a lot of sadder stuff, but now I’m a lot more angry,” says June. “I feel like sometimes I’m not being taken seriously, so the new songs are more in-your-face.” She is starting a new project cleverly called Venus Envy, which will continue in this punkier direction.

The night finished off with Ami Madeleine, a fingerstyle virtuouso with an amazing vocal range. She performed several dreamlike originals that sent the audience quietly into the night.

This Girl Gig was a resounding success, and Hope doesn’t have any signs of slowing down. The doors are opening again at the Yacht Club this friday, April 21, for a basement show with performances by Prince Daddy, Oso Oso, Just Friends, Oswald, and Schmave. Bring donations for the bands, or $5 at the door. All are welcome.


This is an extended version of a story that ran in the April 20 edition.