Girl In Red at Reading Festival 2021: a fitting, chaotic finale

August 29: Norwegian queer-pop icon crafts chaos as she closes the Festival Republic tent

It ain’t easy going up against Liam Gallagher, but Norwegian indie-pop queen Girl In Red has the packed-out Festival Republic tent chanting her name loud enough to drown out the ever-present echoes of “LIAAAAAAAAAM” that hang in the air on the closing hours of Reading Festival 2021.

Opening with the Finneas-produced ‘Serotonin’ from her intimate but high energy 2021 debut album ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’, slacker-pop sensation Marie Ulven bounds across the stage, unleashing that 18 months of pent-up pandemic energy. The hollering crowd tonight not only match, but double or triple it. “Holy fuck, there are a lot of you,” she beams after the hyper garage rock of ‘You Stupid Bitch’ and spending quite a lot of time crowdsurfing. There are. Who saw this coming when she was just dabbling in lo-fi bedroom pop on Soundcloud?

Now, she’s a queer-pop icon – giving her all as a true rockstar but never too removed to not feel like she could be any of the screaming teens in this room. They’re still close.  “Come up here, I’ll sign your tits. Do you have a sharpie?” she replies to the request of one fan scrawled across a sign, igniting yet more insanity. “One pair of tits at a time, please,” she reasons.

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Girl In Red at Reading 2021. Credit: Emma Viola Lilja for NME
Girl In Red at Reading 2021. Credit: Emma Viola Lilja for NME

“It’s the last day of the festival so we have to have a good-ass show,” she vows. ‘Girls’ follows, along with a touching display of the gathered young bellowing back this energetic celebration of coming out. Everyone’s feeling it. What on paper should be lows come off as highs. The line “There’s so much time to question my life” shouldn’t be roared back with this much gleeful abandon as it does on the hazy sadness of ‘Summer Depression’, but everyone here feels at home and couldn’t be happier about it.

From Ulven opening up about her a date with a new girlfriend looming later in the week to the to and fro about the wonders of gay TikTok (“Even my straight friends are on gay TikTok!” she laughs), the Festival Republic is made to feel like a close circle of friends. Ulven told NME before her set that she’s been working hard on an ambitious new album around prepping for a tour, which include a huge support slot with Billie Eilish at The O2. If tonight’s set is anything to go by, the Girl In Red community of sensitive and open revellers who ultimately just wanna dance through the dark times is about to get a whole lot bigger.

Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021. 

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