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Did you listen to girl in red's ACL Fest queer group therapy session?

Eric Webb
Austin 360
girl in red performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Saturday October 2, 2021.

There's no filter, and then there's girl in red. 

The Norwegian singer-songwriter (real name Marie Ulven, who stylizes her stage name in lowercase letters) performs alt-rock therapy. Her opening song, the Spotify playlist mainstay "Serotonin," cruised through the speakers with emotional trigger alerts on DEFCON 1 on Saturday at Austin City Limits Music Festival.

"I get/ Intrusive thoughts like cutting my hands off/ Like jumping in front of a bus/ Like how do I make this stop," Ulven sang from the Lady Bird Stage, the sweet-and-sour sound belying her anguish.

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The band built the music up and up and up and Ulven caught it with her hands in mid-air as soon as it dropped out, physically falling back into space as they started to play on.

"Do you listen to girl in red?" is internet-speak for "Are you a queer lady?" Ulven, 22, speaks to experiences that that demographic is just now starting to hear more of in popular music. "Don't bite your lip or grit your teeth/ Just count to ten and try to breathe," she sings to the title character of "You Stupid Bitch," who can't see who and what is in front of her. She would hopefully notice the spooky, distorted guitars that set Ulven's frustration into crystal. (Spooky crystal.)

So, no emotional filter, right. But that stage banter? To wit:

"I ate too much chicken."

"I might need my shoes back. I was being too rock & roll for a second."

"I'm also about to pee my pants."

Chaos energy, for sure, but it's of a piece with her all-on-the-table artistry. Ulven told the audience about meeting a girl in a bar in Oslo, where she lives, and they "made out like crazy." No secrets at a girl in red show. They're together now, and she's missing her on tour. 

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She then launched into the swoony, romantic "October": "Smoking cigarettes on the roof/ You look so pretty and I love this view/ Don't bother looking down/ We're not going that way."

Ulven sings about girls who are so pretty it hurts, and about lovers that "f--- up" and become friends, anyway. "We need more room these days to mess up," Ulven said. "That's how you grow."

"Sorry, I'm a rambler," Ulven said at one point. "You probably know that by now."

You can ramble your way to a lot of good points, you know.