Review: Girls with Dum Dum Girls; April 5, 2010; Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

Photo credit: J. Walkos

By now I’m sure you’ve heard the legendary back-story of Christopher Owens, the frontman for Girls. It’s full of cults and intrigue, heartbreak and redemption, and as soon as I heard it I had to hear the music it inspired. My first introduction to Girls was their video for the sprawling, nostalgic “Hellhole Ratrace.” The clip follows the band and their friends around San Francisco for a night of boozing that culminates in a picturesque sunrise over the bay. It’s one of those rare instances when the imagery and music match up perfectly, elevating the art to a whole new level.

I was hoping to have my own “Hellhole Ratrace” kind of night when Girls rolled through town on Monday. So, a couple of friends and I hopped in the car, cranked the windows down, and let the spring breeze set the night’s mood as we headed toward the venue. Opening act Dum Dum Girls primed the crowd with their special blend of 60s-inspired surf rock. The set was even good enough to get the hipsters in the crowd to uncross their arms and tap their feet a bit.

A couple beers later, Girls took the stage. Owens showed his affection for Dum Dum Girls by sporting one of their stickers on his khakis. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, khakis — Girls were dressed to impress.

What struck me first about the band’s live performance is how well it translated from their full-length, Album, to a live setting. The shoegazey parts remained just as sweet and sincere as their recorded versions, while rocking tracks like “Morning Light” absolutely blew my hair back with reverb. You can tell the band has been touring a lot — the songs were pulled off effortlessly.

The highlight of the set had to be “Lust For Life,” which is far and away their best song. Its lyrics are sexually ambiguous and self-deprecating in the best of ways: “I wish I had a boyfriend, I wish I had a loving man in my life.” The wishing for a boyfriend line is certainly intriguing; I actually think it’s a yearning for a father figure, but who knows? If you’ve seen the X-rated video for the song, you might think otherwise.

The set’s final highlight occurred during the encore performance of “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker”, a tongue-in-cheek song about proving to a crush that you’re big, bad, mean, and also motherfucker-y. The playful tone of the song served as a nice close to the night. Girls have considerable hype behind them, and it must be tough trying to live up to all those expectations. But, on this particular spring night, they proved that they really are big bad mean motherfuckers. Khaki pants notwithstanding.

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