Vivian Girls said goodbye with two Brooklyn shows this weekend that combined fans, friends, family, sweat, tears, joy and celebration, with just the odd hint of sadness.
The first night was at my favourite venue, Death By Audio, a perfect match from their DIY beginnings. That they decided to play here instead of a much larger venue, which they surely could have, definitely seemed like a treat to long-term fans.
Opening the night was Juan Wauters of The Beets. I’ve seen Juan on various bills over the last year and I think this was his best set (I’ve found the others hit and miss, truth be told). Maybe it was because I wasn’t standing around waiting endlessly for the flags and lightbulbs to get set up like normal and was enjoying a beer instead, or maybe playing solo as opposed to a two or three-piece strips the songs down in a more endearing way.
Waxahatchee followed and have added a second guitarist to the live line-up since I last saw them at River Rocks back in the summer. Their album made our best of 2013 list (have we gone past that stage of the year now where we can still look back?), and their performance seemed to echo a confidence in the material that was perhaps missing back in the summer, which I enjoyed but this was a big step up. They definitely seem like a band now as opposed to Katie Crutchfield with a couple of other people.
And finally, Vivian Girls dominated the DBA stage for the last time. Sold out shows at DBA do have a certain something in the air, although thankfully this time it wasn’t just the moisture of our combined bodyheat!
The sound system was pushed to the limit but DBA punches well above its weight in that regard and coped with everything the band threw at it. Cassie Ramone’s snarling visage and nervous demeanor is countered by Katy Goodman’s perpetual smile and flailing hair, she assumes the role of handling most the audience interaction while Ali Koehler packs a mean punch on the drums, sporting a classic Beavis and Butthead sweater to boot.
If you follow any of the band on social media leading up to the shows (Twitter links: Cassie, Katy, Ali) you might have thought the night was going to be an overwhelming wave of nostalgia, but there were no forlorn figures in the room and no grand sweeping gestures. The band, as they have always done, blitzed through an entertaining set that other bands have tried to mimic and failed. It seemed like a regular Vivian Girls show and all the better for it.
A show of hands suggested many people were seeing the band for the first time, but rather than johnny-come-lately types just trying to catch a hyped show as can happen in these situations, you could sense the love for the band in the room and an intimacy with the material.
Here’s a video I took at DBA, but stay tuned because we’re going to have some really great footage for you soon!
Straight after the set finished, the thought that the real final show would be at Baby’s All Right seemed a bit of a downer. Don’t get me wrong, I like Baby’s just fine (and their new happy hour food options are great), but there was something more poetic, more just, that the band would ring out their final notes at a place like DBA. Like Vivian Girls’ music, the venue might seem a bit of a ramshackle affair to begin with, but spend time with it and the beauty begins to shine through.
Such reservations proved to be unwarranted, however, as the show was even better than the night before. As a sign of intent, balloons filled the room, this was going to be a celebration, not a funeral.
Baby’s All Right shook things up by giving us Potty Mouth and Shellshag as opening acts. I’ve seen Potty Mouth a few times now and they always put on a good show, although their playing seemed a bit looser than normal, possibly aided by the obvious party vibe in the venue!
Shellshag’s playful set was filled with sludgey riffs and thumping floor toms, it was no surprise to find out they are signed to Don Giovanni Records. Their set ended up with a cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, which made me think The Cure must be the most covered band in NYC (at least from shows I’ve gone to).
The sound at Baby’s tonight was completely on point, loud but incredibly clear, from the vocal harmonies shaking the molecules in the air to Katy’s thundering bass. Cassie and Ali tipped back at least 4 fireball shots each during the night, their parents danced, a few fans cried, and but for some poor attempts at crowd surfing the crowd bopped along to every song. The sets from both nights fittingly featured a nice mix from their trio of albums (although omitted my personal favourite, Can’t Get Over You), as well as a cover of The Wiper’s Telepathic Love (also in the video posted).
And now it’s over, but let’s not be sad, we can look forward to music from Cassie, Katy and Ali in other forms (Cassie’s solo career and work in the Babies, Katy’s excellent La Sera and Ali’s latest endeavor, Upset), and we’ll always have the three Vivian Girls records, which I think will stand the test of time. Their blend of garage punk and 60s girl-group pop sensibilities stood out. They didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they gave it a fresh set of tyres, and now they’re moving on.