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.