Girls at Pabst Theater
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One of the many pitfalls of the current blog-band culture is when moderately hyped groups get booked to venues that end up being a little too big for their britches. Such was the case at Sunday night’s Girls show, which would have been better mounted in the close quarters of the Cactus Club instead of the massive elegance of the Pabst. Even for a Sunday night, the crowd was pretty spotty, barely filling half of the main floor. But don’t blame the band—an iffy turnout notwithstanding, the night still had its share of shining moments.
On record, Girls come off as a pleasant Elvis Costello/Beach Boys hybrid, though their live show suggests what The Cure would sound like if Robert Smith moved to southern California, got high, and started wearing more jean jackets. Built around the songwriting team of Chet “JR” White and former Children Of God cult member Christopher Owens, the band’s earnest, melodic indie rock conjures up images of gauzy, Super 8 home movies and long, blissed-out summers. Songs like “Lust For Life” and “Laura” went over big, and “Hellhole Ratrace” and “Summertime”—all from the group’s debut disc, Album—presented Owens’ knack for hooks in the best possible light.
Shambling and surprisingly loud, Girls spent a fair amount of time wallowing in overblown distortion while appearing charmingly distracted and druggy. The drum intro to the excellent “Ghost Mouth” was stretched to perhaps three times its original length due to an inattentive bass player, and Owens and White amused themselves mid-set by playing hacky sack with an empty bottled water container.
The small but fervent crowd remained seated for most of the night, though by the time Girls quietly found their way to a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” fans eager for a more intimate arrangement began to take to the stage. Energized by the close proximity, Owens and company launched seamlessly into a lengthy encore, finally wrapping things up with Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End.” Arms outstretched and bodies swaying, the crowd suddenly seemed twice as big, twice as strong. It was an illusion that proved both triumphant and revelatory, if only for a moment.
CJ FoecklerClad in barely-there skirts and black tights, openers Dum Dum Girls simultaneously redefined the word “leggy” and gave the crowd a taste of what the Vivian Girls would sound like if the Vivian Girls were any fucking good. The group’s harmony-laden, doom-and-gloom surf rock proved surprisingly refreshing, while their undeniable sex appeal led to a record number of camera wielding male fans getting shaken down by Pabst security. A handful of catcalls from audience members channeling their inner construction workers were thankfully answered by nothing but blank stares.