One relatively new band I have been hearing about who I “would have seen had I been able to go to Coachella” is the Vivian Girls. When I heard they’d be playing at the Middle East Upstairs, I couldn’t believe my good fortune, as I assumed they were already playing places much larger than that. They were supported by the Libyans and Stupid Party, and judging from the quick listens on MySpace, I was prepared for a thrashy, garagy, ear-bleeding good time. I was not disappointed.
Not being a huge fan of hardcore and mostly wanting to the see Vivian Girls, I didn’t make that extra effort to extract myself off my island to get there in time for the opening band, the Libyans, and so I arrived with just a few songs left. I walked in to an aural maelstrom led by a crazed banshee of a lead singer who I instantly liked (a lot), so it’s a shame I missed most of their set. They have a few singles and EPs available, and have been compared to the Avengers and Angry Samoans – just to give you a rough idea of their sound. Fortunately they’re Boston-based, so hopefully I’ll be able to catch them again. I did, however, arrive in time to hear her reassure the shell-shocked audience “it’s ok, we just have two more songs”, to which some guy said “one more!”, which she promptly fired back with “f*ck you!” They then assaulted us with two final, minute-long machine gun blasts, and left the stage. Some guy right up front yelled out “play some more! Come on! Hey, I want my money back!”, in true scathing Bostonian sarcasm, making me, for one fleeting moment, quite proud.
Their upcoming shows include June 18 at Gay Gardens in Allston and June 19 at “House” in Albany, New York (pretty certain this means somebody’s house and not a club called House; best to email them to find out where).
After my quick crash course in the Libyans, I scrambled around in my bag for earplugs and was marginally more prepared for Stupid Party. They’re from Brooklyn, NY, with band members “Chuck, Cory, and Johnny”, and they make one hell of a racket. In a good way. Although one gentleman at the back issued his one-word review halfway into their set – “BOR-ING” – and you can probably guess at the band’s response. Personally, I tend to adjust my expectations and what I’m looking to get out of the experience based on the style of music. With hardcore thrash, I’m not standing reverently with my ears uplifted to catch musical nuances and prosaic lyrics. I’m moving around (if I can), and letting the music do what it will. I know all the songs will sound relatively the same, maybe with a different beat here, some unusual breaks or phrasing there. I know it’s going to be fast and ear-splitting loud and if there even are lyrics, they will be wailed and shrieked and completely unintelligible; not meant to be grasped and understood, but rather part of the physical body of noise being hurled at you. You either absorb it or you don’t. They definitely had a groove going, helped in no small part by their astonishing and hyper kinetic drummer. A few people in the audience were swept up in the fury, causing them to leap around in an understandably manic, uncontrolled way. Plus the lead singer had a Ramonesy vibe about him – and a cool Sid & Nancy t-shirt (Nancy, as in the Nancy cartoon). How can you not like that?
May 19 2009Â Â 8:00P – Silent barn w/ shellshag, michael jordan, pregnant + a bunch more | ridgewood, New York
Jun 5 2009Â Â 8:00P – DON PEDROS: starcleaner party with shellshag, pregnany, little lungs, grass widow, more | brooklyn, New York
Jun 6 2009Â Â 12:00P – 106 emerson place. hillstock. we play at 9, but its an allday show! | brooklyn, New York
The Vivian Girls were the ones I came to see tonight and man, were they amazing! Cassie Ramone on guitar, Kickball Katy on bass, Ali Koehler on drums, and all three contributing vocals with beautiful harmony floating on top of an incredibly tight, wildly rocking fury of sound. The sheer beauty of what they do is far more apparent on their debut full-length album that I’m listening to now; their vocals unfortunately got lost in the mix at the Middle East. It’s the same complaint I always have at shows, and I do feel like a bit of a moron saying this about a punk show, but yes, it was too loud. No, I’m not your feeble grandmother, but the Vivian Girls’ hallmark is their lovely vocal contribution, in addition to some very pretty guitar that acts as a perfect counterbalance to the thrashing, and all that gets quickly lost when the sound is too loud (and poorly mixed). However, as the first time I’ve seen them, and in the presence of a “past-capacity” adoring audience at one of my favorite shoeboxes here in Boston in which to see a cool indie band, they more than made up for the lack of musical subtlety with a blistering performance.
I can’t speak to individual songs, as I’m just becoming acquainted with these lovely ladies from Brooklyn, but they drew us all in immediately upon taking the stage, and you can feel the chemistry they have performing together. Wonderfully garagy and raw, yet a sort of delicacy at the same time with Cassie’s lovely little guitar licks coming in every now and then, and those aforementioned sweet vocals, which – even with the throbbing intensity in that tiny room – you could still get a strong sense of. It was sort of like “wow, you know, I can just tell they’re really, really good. Guess I’d best pick up their album so I can listen to them”. Which of course, in the end, is exactly what you want.
That crazy, wonderful chick from the Libyans who I now have a crush on (anyone out there know her name?) came up to play tambourine on one of the songs (somehow I didn’t quite see her as a tambourine sort of girl, but she was great fun and did just fine). They ended their set with a completely over-the-top and mind-numbing cacophony in which Cassie, Katy and Ali all changed instruments, mid-song, and continued to thrash away, Katy pounding away quite convincingly on the drums, and Ali and Cassie on guitar and bass respectively, alternately playing and pounding with tambourines.
A deeply satisfying evening, and well worth the partial deafness in one ear.
[Note: the Vivian Girls are off to Europe now, but will be performing at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago on July 19]share this: