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by David Chiu
On Saturday night, New York’s Webster Hall hosted two California bands: sunny-sounding Girls from San Francisco and punky Dum Dum Girls from Los Angeles. Both indie groups evoked the catchy pop melodies of the ‘60s and then some, but their execution of those sounds was different.
Decked out all in black—including miniskirts and fishnet stockings—the female quartet of Dum Dum Girls were all business during their opening set. The sound from their performance—made clear on their recently-released Sub Pop full-length album I Will Be–drew from such acts as ‘60s girl groups, the Velvet Underground, the Go-Go’s and Joan Jett. But while the songs were very catchy and energetic, the tone and the lyrics convey something moodier and darker, echoed by lead singer Dee Dee’s dreamy yet cool vocals. Highlights from the set, which was basically tracks from I Will Be and the Yours Alone EP, included the poppy “Hey Sis,” “Jail La La,” “Catholicked” (which borrows the “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” line from Patti Smith’s “Gloria”), and the ballad “Rest of Our Lives.”
In contrast, all-male headliner Girls, fronted by singer/guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist J.R. White, were slightly brighter in terms of mood as well as aesthetically: the stage was littered with scores of flowers; they were everywhere from the speakers to the drum kit. Girls owes their very summery California sound to acts such as the Beach Boys (with also Brit pop and lounge-y elements), but like Dum Dum Girls, their melodies mask some angst in the lyrics. Beginning their set with the Phil Spector-ish “Ghost Mouth,” the band played tunes from their recent record Album–among them the poppy “Laura,” the greaser rock of “Big Bad Motherfucker,” “Lust for Life,” and the ballad “Lauren Marie.” Owens, who has a habit for lifting his left leg, evoked the anguish and yearning of the song lyrics through his soulful singing and also displayed some excellent guitar playing; co-founder White delivered outstanding melodic bass lines.
Clearly both Girls and Dum Dum Girls’ shows from Saturday night were a homage to pop music’s past. However, they also confirmed that they were in the present with their own distinct approach.
Dum Dum Girls: Jail La La
Girls: Hellhole Ratrace
Micachu & the Shapes, Tanlines at Le Poisson Rouge, 6:30
She & Him, The Chapin Sisters at Bowery Ballroom, 8ish
jj at Knitting Factory, 8ish
Califone, Sonoi at Bell House, 8ish
The Big Pink, A Place to Bury Strangers at Webster Hall, 8ish
Eskimo King (Brian Sullivan of Mouthus), Samara Lubelski, Religious Knives at Zebulon, 9
The Soft Pack, Nodzzz, Beaters at Maxwell’s, 8:30 (and Thursday at Mercury Lounge and Saturday at MHW w/ Male Bonding)
Abe Vigoda, Effi Briest, Cloud Nothings, MINKS at Knitting Factory, 8:30
The xx, jj at Webster Hall, 8
Ryan Moore (drums) w/ Thurston Moore and Daniel Carter at Rose Live Music, 8 (two sets)
Japandroids, Best Coast, Midnight Masses at Bowery Ballroom, 8
DOM, Golden Girls, Buvette at Pianos, 8
Blank Dogs, Wet Dog, Wild Nothing, Further Reductions at Glasslands, 8
Phosphorescent at Maxwell’s, 9:30
The Smith Westerns, Big Troubles, Golden Triangle, Darlings at Market Hotel, 8
Love of Diagrams, Wetdog, Partyline (Alison from Bratmobile), Coasting at Death by Audio, 8
Girls, Dum Dum Girls at Webster Hall, 6 (?)
The Smith Westerns, Male Bonding, So Cow, The Gaming Commission at Mercury Lounge, 7
When I first set eyes on Ryan William Lynch I knew he was a California boy. I mean- his style was just so West Coast. The long sleek hair, denim rolled up and totally not skinny jean style, a striped button down shirt tucked in and Beatles boots. It was almost over kill but I liked his completely bold and inspired attitude. It was his first show with Girls, and we were in New Jersey at the country’s greatest rock club, Maxwell’s.
He’s a jangly rhythm guitarist. And he does that same thing in his own band, San Francisco’s Dominant Legs. But these songs are more outright 80s pop- with synthesizers. Very nice and pretty “put your feet up” kind of tunes. Thanks to my main Massachusetts and sports fan man, Friendship Bracelet for reminding me of Dominant Legs.
Dominant Legs: Young at Love and Life
According to a release on the Matablog True Panther Sounds has been bought by Matador Records. Dean Bein (check the Q&A with him) will still run the label. Basically I think this means more money for everyone involved on the TPS of things. Maybe that means a well deserved Tanlines national tour? Will it mean these bands will end up on Gossip Girl, like another recent Matador band??
I’m sure all involved are real psyched on this deal. Now Bein will probably get to hire some people, or maybe that intern of his can start to get paid.
The Very Best and Sleigh Bells at Santos Party House, 7ish
Buraka Som Sistema at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 11 pm
Fucked Up, Andrew W.K., Vivian Girls, Titus Andronicus at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 7ish
Girls and Real Estate at the Bowery Ballroom, 8ish (see my review of the Maxwell’s show.)
Abe Vigoda and Hot Box at Death by Audio, 8ish
Vivian Girls, Grass Widow, Bitters at Market Hotel, 8ish
Brooklyn Museum First Saturday curated by Todd P (heh) featuring Crystal Stilts, Grass Widow and the Beets, 4
Picture Plane, Small Black, Cale Parks at the Market Hotel, 8ish
Cass McCombs and Acrylics at Bowery Ballroom, 8ish
Very rarely does one see a show where all the bands are equally satisfying. Last night at Maxwell’s was one of those times. The double whammy of a bill featured two sides of the same coin: Real Estate, the New Jersey rockers who focus on solos and long, textured rhythmic build ups, and Girls, the San Francisco band focused on the major-swoon inducing Christopher Owens and his superb heartbreak act. By the end of the show I didn’t know whether to jump up and down with enthusiasm or run home and cry.
I’ve seen Real Estate before and each time I do I like them more and more. It’s just that kind of band that gets into your head and grows, filling up all the space between synapses, like a re-uptake inhibitor drug. The band is really all about jams- of course there are lyrics and melody but the power in Real Estate lies in their guitar solos and Alex Bleeker’s interesting and almost guitar-like bass playing.
Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney trade back and forth, when one solos the other builds the song– it happens slowly and deliberately. It’s easy to get lost in the hazy chord progressions… and that’s a good thing.
Girls came up next and I have to say, I haven’t been taken aback by a performer like I was last night in a very, very long time. Christopher Owens is literally the wounded bird with the tough shell. He is one part pure, sexy confidence and one part tender, perhaps bitter confusion. And his music reflects this tension.
At times he sings mournfully into his microphone (he brings his own), singing about loving someone so much he wants to be them, and other times he is dancing across the stage Chuck Berry style and creating more noisy sounds with a slide. It’s this dichotomy, this utterly confusing and palpable feeling of bewilderment that makes Girls so fucking great and powerful.
Owens is a singer and musician that people can relate to- and that people can love. He is completely lacking in pretension on stage, has an adorable lisp, a strange demeanor and yet he has both rock star and boy next door qualities.
While Chet “JR” White was surely an even keeled back-up to Owens, it’s pretty clear that this is Owens’ game. It is he who stands starkly center stage with no fear– though he sometimes hides behind waves of dirty blonde California beach hair– and leads the band, which also includes newcomer Ryan Lynch from Dominant Legs, and Garett Godard on drums.
Both bands last night reminded me of one of my favorite musicians of all time, Evan Dando. I know many people consider Evan an impostor, a phony, whatever. There’s a lot of hate around him. But what Evan and the Lemonheads did was take emotion, extreme blissed out and romantic emotion, (sometimes juvenile), and turn it into something serious, something adult. And drugs played a big role, as they do with Girls (anyone read the FADER cover story?) and Real Estate, too. I think… The Lemonheads ook pretty songs about love and loss and turned them into alt-pop/ rock and roll- which is just what Girls is doing too.
Get your ass to Girls and Real Estate if you know what’s good for you. You may walk away bewildered, confused, in love, whatever, but it will feel really good either way.
Dean Bein of True Panther Sounds is the man behind the biggest (probably) break out band of the year, Girls. Bein also threw like, 4 CMJ shows, DJed a FADER party, and even did another party on Sunday of CMJ weekend– when the shit was already over. He’s devoted to sound. Bein took some time out to discuss the music of Girls, working with Matador, the appeal of cassettes and records, how to pronounce his last name and more.
How and when did you start True Panther Sounds?
My friends Molly, Avi and I started a band called Red Tape Apocalypse so our friend Sam could have a vehicle to learn how to play guitar. We wrote some songs and decided we should go on tour. We made a recording in the basement on my 4-track, mixed it on a friend’s computer, pooled our money and put out a tour-only 7″. That record sold so we decided to put out another one using the money. The label has sort of kept afloat on that one-to-one project style since then. That was in 2006. Putting money into something, praying it would sell enough to put out something else.
You started in San Francisco right? Why the move to Brooklyn?
We started in San Francisco. At one point I realized that growing up in SF and moving back there made it really difficult to focus on anything. San Francisco is a fantasy-land in the best and worst possible ways- you can walk down the street, get some free pizza, step into Dolores Park and run into 20 of your best friends. It was really hard to accomplish anything longterm for me there because it had so much history for me. Once I got to New York I realized how vital the music scene in San Francisco actually is and how unfortunate it was that it didn’t really have a loud voice singing its praises.
How many people work for you? Do you operate in Cali too?
Nobody works for me. The label started out as just Molly, Avi and myself. Then it was just me. Now I’m really lucky to work with the staff at Matador to promote and support TPS releases. I also have a really smart industrious and generally awesome intern named Ben Mallett who helps a couple of times a week. But I don’t have any employees, per say.
How do you find talent, primarily?
I listen to music from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, usually go to sleep listening to music. I trade music with friends, talk about it with them, DJ radio shows and parties, collect records, etc. Music is pretty much my life, so a part of that is constantly discovering new bands and musicians. I’m lucky now to also have the bands that I currently work with hip me to things they think are cool.
Tell me the story of Girls, were they first friends of yours? Did you know instantly that they would get so much love?
I used to see Christopher around SF a lot. I ran into him at Glen Park BART one morning at 8am as he was going to work, and I was going to work. I found it really surprising that he was up so early and commuting to San Mateo for work. A few months later, I was living in New York and incredibly homesick. I heard his and JR’s songs and completely fell in love, overwhelmed by the images of San Francisco they evoked and the beauty and intimacy of their songs and recordings. I feel like most people, if they are listening with an open heart, will recognize that their songs are really special, and have a sincerity that is rare these days.
Das Racist, Brooklyn Bowl, Free, 9 INFO
Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, Karl Blau at Ash’s Place, 8ish INFO
Trevor Wilson, Horse’s Mouth at Pete’s Candy Store
Lightning Bolt and Black Dice Above the Auto Parts Store, 8ish INFO
Mt Eerie, Tara Jane O’Neil, Market Hotel, 8ish. INFO
Wooden Shjips, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Religious Knives, 171 Lombardy, 8ish. INFO
Deer Tick (as the Sex Pistols) at Brooklyn Bowl, 9ish
Girls and Real Estate at Maxwell’s, Hoboken, 8ish INFO
UPDATE: Discovery featuring Rostam Batmanglij and Wes Miles is not playing. It’s another band by the same name. Cake Shop linked to the wrong one. Sorryyyy.
I think this is a good band. Do i think they’re amazing? No. They’re not really breaking any ground. But the jangles and slacker vibe are pretty infectious. What i love though, is this video. It’s just so California. It reminds me of of the long lost summer i spent in Berkeley. It was filled with crazy (good) people, lots of partying and experimentation, naked pool swimming, and people climbing in and out of windows. The kids were punks though- not girls in flowery dresses. Otherwise, it was just like this video.
That girl at the end totally spilled all the water out of that bong…
Zs, Nine 11 Thesaurus, Secret Project Robot, 9 pm
Lemonheads at Bowery Ballroom, 9ish
Dinosaur Jr. at Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9ish
Girls at Mercury Lounge , 9 pm (and Fri at Monster Island Basement and Sat at Cake Shop, both at 9)
Magik Markers at the Silent Barn, 8ish
Samara Lubelski at Cake Shop, 8 pm
Blonde Redhead at Prospect Park Bandshell, FREE, 8ish (get there early)
Team Robespierre, Ninjasonik, etc., Studio B, all day-ish