Vivian Girls at Vintage Vinyl and The Firebird, 4/21/11: Review

Categories: Last Night

Vivian-Girls-Review.jpg
Nolan Conway
Vivian Girls with Black Lips
Vintage Vinyl/The Firebird
Thursday, April 21

Live music patrons of St. Louis, you had a choice last night: You could have gone to see Arcade Fire and The National play Scottrade Center (and if my Twitter feed is any indication, most people I know did just that). Or you could have seen NYC's Vivian Girls play their local debut at the Firebird opening for Black Lips. Fortunately, enough of you chose the second option to fill the Firebird comfortably.

Vivian Girls has been kicking around for a few years now. It's tempting to think of it as having jump started the fuzzy C86-inspired pop of Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles and Brilliant Colors, except the three Vivian Girls' members would be the first to tell you that they prefer to emulate the Wipers instead of Talulah Gosh. Still, when their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, there simply weren't that many bands outside of the twee/indiepop scene who played that kind of fast, catchy music. They've slowly broadened their palette ever since, and Share The Joy, their third and most recent album, is the payoff. Singer/songwriter Cassie Ramone has said that the songs are inspired by the likes of Burt Bacharach and Neil Young. Both influences are evident: the title track, "The Other Girls," is a six-minute song complete with extended guitar break, while "I Heard You Say," "Sixteen Ways," and even the blithe "Dance (If You Wanna)" are complex without losing the plot. This is clearly a band in it for the long haul.

For its first-ever St. Louis appearance -- in fact, apparently their first in the state of Missouri -- Vivian Girls played an in-store at Vintage Vinyl. By their very nature, in-stores are usually stripped down; what band is going to load its entire backline in and out of a record store, only to do it again an hour later at a club? For this appearance, Cassie and bassist Katy Goodman played sitting on stools while drummer Fiona Goodman played a floor tom and tambourine, with cups of the free Schlafly beer sitting to their sides. From the opener "Never See Me Again," they admitted having to "get used to" this semi-Unplugged format, but it was wonderfully intimate and hushed, highlighting a side of the band's songwriting not always apparent on record. "Wild Eyes" and "Lake House" took on an extra air of poignancy, guitar and bass lines playing against one another. Cassie seemed to draw into herself at times, literally shaking as she sang "I Heard You Say" and "I Have No Fun." Even the one-chord drone of "Tell The World" benefitted from this low-key approach.

A few hours later, they went onstage at the Firebird and once again started with "Never See Me Again." This time, however, it was the full rock experience. With a minimum of audience chatter, they plowed through 15 songs in 45 minutes. This is no mean feat when one of them was the epic "The Other Girls." Vivian Girls' live show has been portrayed as sloppy at times, but this version of the band could not have been more confident or in control. Campbell, the latest of their Spinal Tap-esque procession of drummers, seems to be the missing puzzle piece. Like Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag, she thinks like an instrumentalist rather than a metronome. Headliners Black Lips, whose drunken, swampy shoutalongs resulted in much dancing, stage-diving and beer-spitting, had to work hard to match Vivian Girls' sheer emotion and energy. A satisfying pair of performances, to say the least.

Vintage Vinyl set list:
Never See Me Again
I Heard You Say
Wild Eyes
Lake House
I Have No Fun
Sixteen Ways
Before I Start to Cry
Dance (If You Wanna)
Tell The World

Firebird set list:
Never See Me Again
Can't Get Over You
I Heard You Say
The Other Girls
Wild Eyes
Take It As It Comes
Lake House
I Have No Fun
When I'm Gone
Death
Sixteen Ways
Survival
Before I Start to Cry
Dance (If You Wanna)
Tell The World

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14 comments
anonymous
anonymous

so which one did you sleep with?

Julie
Julie

Thanks for concentrating on VG for your review. I was thoroughly enraptured by them and I'd been waiting for this concert for a long time. Their poise and confidence was a total surprise based on other show reviews I'd read. And I adore the new drummer. GOLD STAR FOR YOU!

anonymous
anonymous

I enjoyed the Vivian Girls' performance but really--"the Black Lips had to work hard to match the Vivian Girls' sheer emotion and energy"? Give me a fucking break. The Black Lips had to work hard to not literally blow the roof off the Firebird because they were so rockin'. Stage-diving and crowd-surfing at a place as small as the Firebird? Not something you see every night.

Shawn
Shawn

Are you kidding me? Vivian Girls played the same midtempo song for 45 minutes while Black Lips once again brought an actual wild, fun show to the Firebird. I'm shocked you can discount their performance so easily.

Shawn
Shawn

I'd have more respect for this piece and editorial decision if Mike just said he thought the Black Lips sucked and walked out early. It paints a very incomplete picture of the event for your readers. I don't remember this happening under Annie's watch.

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

He didn't discount it, Shawn -- this review is about Vivian Girls, which is why it includes their set at Vintage Vinyl.

Mike
Mike

But it would have been a factually incorrect review if I said they sucked, Shawn.

We covered the Black Lips' set last year and gave it a great review: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.c.... On the other hand, VIvian Girls have never played here before. Had the tables been turned, I'm sure neither Annie nor Kiernan would have green-lit the piece. Make a little more sense?

Julio
Julio

Get over yourself, Shawn.

Shawn
Shawn

So there will be a Lips review to follow? Why mention them otherwise?

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

Nope, just the Vivian Girls. It's worth mentioning the Lips because it's necessary context (this was the show Vivian Girls was playing, etc.) and because we'd love for people to tell us what they thought of both bands. To that end, and completely sincerely, I appreciate your input!

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