Photo by Peter Emmett via Half Gringa’s Spotify
Written by Avalon Smith
On a Sunday night in Sleeping Village, audience members excitedly gathered in the bar awaiting the EP release show for Half Gringa’s January EP, Ancestral Home. The intimate venue was the perfect setting for their soulful and introspective sound, promising an evening of captivating music and heartfelt performances. Sunday scaries forgotten, fans gathered into the venue, after grabbing a drink and buying some merch, to listen to the self-labeled “Midwestern Latin Poet.”
Before doors opened, I had a chance to speak with Izzy Olive, the singer-songwriter and heart of Half Gringa. When asked to describe her music in three words, she responded: “Midwest, Latin, Poetry.” Olive is from Southern Illinois, though her mother was born in Caracas, Venezuela. The name Half Gringa evolved from her childhood nickname “La Gringa” and reflects the duality of her own identity.
When on the road, in order to bring a piece of her (ancestral) home, Olive packs honey lavender stress tea and a book of poetry to read at night, even though it can make her car sick. However, the most important element in her routine leading up to a performance, in order to prevent or, at least, reduce performance anxiety, is lots of preparation. Recently, just like the rest of us, she has been listening to Rat Saw God by Wednesday on repeat. But, for musical inspiration, Olive recognizes her own friends, such as Tenci.
Half Gringa’s music seamlessly blends indie rock, folk, and Latin influences, creating a unique and compelling sound that resonates with listeners. Drawing on her heritage and life experiences, Olive weaves together themes of identity, love, and self-discovery into poetic melodies. Like most of us, the pandemic allowed her time to ask herself questions she never would’ve asked. This soul-searching is reflected in her newest EP which, unlike her other recent records, she recorded at home and in collaboration with her drummer Abby Black and co-producer Nicholas Palpeo. Fans can keep an eye out for the third record she is currently working on, developed in a similar way to this EP.
Kicking off the night was Jessica Mindrum playing ballads from the 2021 EP including her most captivating song “Restart, Begin,” followed by the second opener Pictoria Vark who skillfully warmed up the crowd, creating an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement. Once Half Gringa stepped into the spotlight, the crowd’s anticipation was palpable. Opening with songs from the latest EP, Ancestral Home, the band wasted no time immersing us in their rich musical tapestry. Izzy Olive’s emotive vocals soared through the venue, complemented by the band’s impeccable musicianship and the tight-knit rhythm section. The band’s connection with the audience was palpable, creating an intimate and authentic experience that is often rare to find in larger venues.
Throughout the set, Half Gringa flawlessly navigated between tender ballads and foot-stomping anthems, showcasing their versatility as musicians and storytellers. Tracks like “Sevenwater” and “No Kind of Fire” showcased Olive’s ability to craft powerful and thought-provoking lyrics, while songs like “1990” had the crowd dancing and singing along. One of the standout moments of the evening came when Half Gringa performed their hit “Miranda.” The song’s infectious energy resonated deeply with the audience who enthusiastically sang along and danced with the rhythm.
However, the highlight of the evening was Olive’s precursing rant about her grievance against cups without lids, especially in cars, to which the band responded by each holding mugs as a prank, finally leading to one of the finale songs “Anti-Thermos.”
Izzy’s ability to weave together diverse musical influences and create an intimate connection with the crowd makes her a force to be reckoned with in the indie rock scene. If you have the chance to experience Half Gringa live (hint, hint, this summer when she will be touring with Iron and Wine), don’t miss it – it’s an experience that will stay with you long after the last note fades away.