Leaving Death By Audio last night after the Vivian Girls show, I overheard a bro say to another bro "That was definitely one of the better shows I've seen in a long time." As a musical experience, I can't say I entirely agree with that bro, but as an overall spectacle, last night's show probably was one of the most memorable rock show's I've ever been to.
I show up at DBA in southwest Williamsburg a little after 8:30 pm, and was lucky I found it because there were no signs or advertisements on the street to denote its existence. I just happened on a group of hipsters starting to line up outside an unmarked door on a squalid building, and followed my intuition in. Once inside, Todd P was there personally checking IDs and marking the wrists of 21 year olds in red pen. The interior to DBA was a classic DYI Williamsburg setup, and I think I overheard someone saying that the show would have to be shut down if the police showed up. Just two dingy, medium sized rooms, one with a stage for the performances, and the other with a merch table, and a makeshift bar selling PBR in can form.
The show kicked off around 9:15 with openers Best Fwends, who were pretty much as retarded as their band name. I won't waste time describing their act, but suffice it to say they must have sucked dick to get on the bill, even at such a crappy venue.
Thankfully, the second group, Real Estate (picture above), were fantastic. I'd heard some buzz about them, and I kind of expected the group to be the typical Woodsist-esque lo-fi bandwagoners that are popping up in droves these days. However, they really won me over with their convincing musicianship, and jammy sound that reminded me a little bit of Yo La Tengo. I struggled through their set a little bit because the room was completely packed, and I was soaking in my own sweat, but I definitely look forward to checking out more of their stuff. Their opening song, 'Green River,' kicked ass.
After Real Estate, I briefly left the sauna-like performance room, but returned in time to catch almost all of the set by The Beets from Jackson Heights. They played straight no-frills bratty garage rock reminiscent of the Nuggets sound and the first wave of punk rockers. As one might expect from a 'Doug' referencing band, their sound was entertainingly juvenile and energetic. However, their formula got stale a little quickly, although they did do a mean version of 'Mean Mister Mustard' towards the end of the set.
In between acts, I was shocked to find myself standing next to former MTV superstar VJ John Norris, who was yammering on to some random dude. He may have been drunk, because I caught the following, somewhat embarrassing, snatch of conversation from Mr. Norris, something to the effect of: "I'm at the point where I've learned to block out what other people say about me, like 'he doesn't act his age, or he doesn't look his age.' You know what I do when I hear that kind of stuff? I stick my fingers in my ears and start saying 'NA-NA-NA-NA-NA'!"
Finally, the Vivian Girls took the stage, and the crowd went bananas. They were super high energy, imploring the audience at regular intervals to dance and make noise, and constantly remarking on how much fun they were having. Of course, they looked great. Kickball Katy was all smiles and swagger, and Cassie Ramone looked like she's just staggered out of a meth-lab, but was still in delirious mid-float. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the show was terrible. A lot could probably be blamed on the rooms acoustics, and on poor mixing. Katy's and Frankie's vocals were too low, so the band lost a lot of their girl group charm. Also, Cassie's guitars were drowned in the bass and drums. The set was composed almost entirely of new songs, which was exciting, but also disappointing in that I missed out on many of my favorites, in particular 'Where Do You Run' and 'No'. However they did a great 'Tell the World' performance. The highlight of the night was the encore, when the Girls launched into a ferocious version of 'Damaged,' that slowly became unhinged as they all traded instruments. In the song's cacophanous conclusion, Cassie, now on bass, grabbed two mic stands and held them up to her face and cooed, with eyes closed , "My baby wants me dead/ He wants to put a bullet in my head/ Tell me why, o why, does my baby want me dead?" The band pounded on their instruments making as much noise and feedback as possible for another minute before ending their show. It was a great finish to a fun, sometimes strange night.