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Queen B turned folk singer


“Leighton Meester, a singer?” you ask. Yes indeed.

Meester is often called only by her most famous role to date—Blair Waldorf. The 28-year-old actress became a household name during her five-year stint as the notoriously witchy Queen B on The CW’s “Gossip Girl.” Though her actual acting debut was way back in 1989, Meester  rose to prominence once she donned those (in)famous headbands. Though the actress has accomplished quite a bit since GG’s completion in 2012, she is still synonymous with her glossy-lipped Upper East Side character. So it may come as a shock to many that Meester has most recently taken up a new role: as a low-key singer-songwriter.

First displaying her vocal chops in the 2010 Oscar-nominated “Country Strong, “as well as a few singles, Meester has since released a debut album, on her own label no less, entitled Heartstrings. Released this past fall, Heartstrings has led to her first tour—a small nine show trip around North America. Appropriately taking place in the month that harbors Valentine’s Day, the tour allowed the Heartstrings artist to finally take the stage.

Already aware of Meester’s music and fond of her covers including one of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,”  I was happy to discover she would be making her way to Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre. Philly and “The Troc,” as it is affectionately nicknamed, are a mere 90 minutes from Charm City. The tickets sold at a just $22 so I snatched two up, perfect for treating my sister to a little bonding time for her birthday present.

Our night began with Happy Hour at Vedge, a vegan restaurant on Locust Street. I’m telling you, if you’re ever in the City of Brotherly Love, go to this place. You will not regret it. My sister and I made our way to The Troc just in time for the opening act, who was not announced prior to the event and of whom we failed to learn the name. Oops. After making our way through the doors and to the 21 and over section (it’s divided), I was able to take in my surroundings.

The venue on Arch Street is long established, having first opened in 1870. It went through many phases as opera house, burlesque theatre, cinema, dance club and now is currently a concert hall and live music venue. According to the venue’s site, the theatre is “the only 19th century Victorian theater still in operation in the United States.” That’s pretty rad. The history is highly noticeable in the architecture of the space, with an elaborate stage curtain and wraparound balcony. The space is rather small with a standing room capacity of 1,200. It’s highly relatable to Baltimore’s Rams Head Live, though a little smaller, much older, and with only one bar; It’s charming.

Meester finally took center stage with her band in tow. The famously perfected strands of Blair Waldorf were traded for loose waves and an effortlessly undone aesthetic. The double threat was clad in simple black jeans, a neutral sweater, and a plaid flannel tied around her waist. Meester started a song right from the get-go and her voice was just as lovely live as on the record. She was the epitome of newness on stage, at ease throughout her tracks but slightly nervous as she addresses the audience with soft “Hey-s” and “How are you doing, Philadelphia-s.” Interspersed with the nine tracks from her album were some covers, including (as I was hoping) “Dreams” and The Cardigans’ “Lovefool,” both of which fit in wonderfully with her sound—light, romantic, and touched with a bit of California, the place she currently calls home.

There was a majorly mixed audience of men, women, twenty-somethings and teens with their chaperoning parents who were more likely than not there because of Meester’s Queen B character. My sister quipped, “It’s like I’m watching an episode of Gossip Girl in which Blair goes through a folk-singer phase for fun.”

Though it is certain many people will always see Leighton Meester as her notorious Blair Waldorf character, the two couldn’t be more different. Queen B has many different sides but is mostly concerned with popularity and maintaining her headband tiara on the throne of young Manhattan. Leighton Meester comes across as a slightly shy, incredibly sweet and a fiercely talented musician with her songstress career just taking off.

Perhaps it’s best to break away from any Gossip Girl comparison at all and simply see the California-cool Meester as she is: an established actress and promising artist with incredible talent. Listen to her debut album Heartstrings available on iTunes or Spotify to get a sense of the real Leighton Meester. You’ll be delighted.


Image courtesy of: Instagram / @BridgetBunton

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Queen B turned folk singer