|(Oh meine) Liebe auf den ersten Blick.|
Right after the small but passionate audience at Love Is All's Vaudeville Mews show Thursday night had me only praising the Des Moines concert experience, a couple of other (pretty good!) shows by bands I basically like taught me a couple of the more awkward quirks of a smaller city's music scene. Aside from not many of my friends wanting to go to a midnight show on a weeknight, I mean.
Dum Dum Girls first. This buzzing, reverb-buried garage-pop band-- on stage sort of like if the models from the "Addicted to Love" video wanted to be the Strokes-- began as the solo project of a supposed Los Angeles librarian calling herself Dee Dee (real name: Kristin Gundred). After the One Kiss Can Lead to Another box set a few years ago coincided with a resurgence of bands inspired by 1960s girl-groups (the Pipettes, Lucky Soul, Tralala, Johnny Boy-- the list goes on), in the past couple of years more female-led bands have taken a rougher, noisier approach to the girl-group genre: Vivian Girls, meet the Shaggs. While Vivian Girls have a great sound, Dum Dum Girls struck me from the start as having the better songs. For one thing, Dee Dee's debut Dum Dum Girls EP could pull off a ballad. For another, tracks like "Catholicked," with clever lines about a chest stuffed with emotion and a confident young woman declaring that "my sins are my own," struck me as simply good pieces of songwriting, however you might choose to record them. I even said so, in a Pitchfork track review, back in February 2009.
Dum Dum Girls released their debut album, I Will Be, on indie (well, actually nearly half-owned by Warner) heavyweight Sub Pop, earlier this year. Dee Dee has a full band now, and Richard Gottehrer, who co-wrote "My Boyfriend's Back" and produced the likes of Blondie and the Go-Go's, helped produce. The overall sound is slightly cleaner, and the individual songs didn't quite reveal themselves to me as much, but my overall positive impression about the band definitely pushed the album into steady iPhone duty. Not a surefire top 10, or anything, but easily a contender for a spot on my overall year-end list, on the faith that I'd get more into the individual songs the more I heard them. Which is still quite possible-- it's a good album.
Their early show Monday night at the Mews, however, was... weird. First of all, Dum Dum Girls are opening pretty much everywhere else for San Francisco buzz band Girls. I'm pretty sure I saw Christopher Owens, the dude from Girls with the awesome backstory (I'll let you Google it for yourself), in the audience last night. But I guess his band chose not to play Des Moines that particular evening? Which-- fair play, totally his right. So it was just Dum Dum Girls, who I like better, anyway. And I was looking for Captured Tracks and Blank Dogs man Mike Sniper, who I really enjoyed interviewing for a recent article, and who I think used to tour as a member of Dum Dum Girls, but I guess he wasn't there, either. Whatever. The music itself was great: a little bit of overkill on the reverb, maybe, but Dee Dee's new band sounded super-tight, they did "Catholicked" and "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" and anything else I was expecting to hear, and I was nodding my head and bouncing up and down and looking stupid. Except for the "stupid" part, so were a lot of people. The crowd was a little dude-heavy, but the dudes couldn't help that, and neither could the Girls (Dum Dum or otherwise). And, you know, if you really are the Strokes, and it's, let's say, 2001, then yeah, you can play a super-short set-- I'm gonna be generous and guess it was 30 minutes?-- and address the audience with a totally supercilious attitude (I think we got a "thank you" or two, tops) and then be all the cooler for it. But it's 2010! And Dum Dum Girls are good, but they're not that great! And the stockings, or pantyhose, or whatever you call those retrograde comic-book-fantasy outfits they were wearing-- they're another reason to listen to Robyn or Beyonce or Kate Nash. I was gonna ask Dee Dee if they brought records or tapes I could buy, but I was too scared. Somebody else asked. We could order them online, I heard. Whatever, it's only Des Moines, right? Bummer.
I have less to say about the Morning Benders' show at the Mews on Friday night, I promise. They're another buzzed-about band, this time from Berkeley, California. Their new album is called Big Echo, and you might like it if you're into bands like the Shins or the Dodos. The catchiest song, "Excuses," combines elements of, like, college a cappella groups (you will never get the "bum bah bum" out of your head) and precious, melodic indie-rock. It also has a lyric about "the southern tip of your body," which, I'm sorry. Anyway, I went to the show with a bunch of friends, and I had a good time, and I'm really glad Morning Benders came to Des Moines. It might've been the overall vibe, I dunno, but I was starting to find the show itself a little boring, a little bit the kind of thing where the noisy spots felt tacked on for the cool factor when the underlying songs really wanted to be something a little cleaner, a little more pop/rock. Which, if you know me, is fine, too! But I was armed with Twitter, and I had the misimpression I was about to be clever-- always dangerous-- so I tweeted something snarky. The next day, also on Twitter, Christopher from the band understandably called me out. I apologized profusely, immediately, and will do so again if called, because either way they seem like really nice guys, and even if they weren't it sounds like they felt it was just a strange night, and besides, the whole point of music criticism for me is never to start a personal beef with an artist or go out of my way to hurt their feelings; you're supposed to be providing a service for other people, not virtually heckling the band. I screwed up.
It's interesting, though. The rules are probably different because I'm a music critic, and so, like it or not, I'm a representative of the publications I write for. But I wonder if, in Brooklyn, there would've been so many tweets that maybe my own boneheaded attempts at humor could've gone overlooked, unnoticed, and un-called-out, so Morning Benders wouldn't have had to try to figure out what I was saying (it doesn't really make sense) and I would've been in the clear. A learning experience: In a smaller city, it's harder to blend in, even when you say something online. I'd better get smart.
(Initial band announcements for 80/35 Festival are on Monday. Advance two-day tickets are $40 or $175 for a two-day pass at midwestix.com. This is a pretty sweet price, and they will go up, so if you're going to be in Des Moines this July 4 weekend and you like any of the music I write about on this blog, I suggest picking them up now.)
(ALSO: Record Store Day this weekend. Hit up Zzz Records on Ingersoll starting at 11 a.m. for special Record Store Day-only releases, pizza, discounts, and all that kind of good stuff. If you're going on the Mayor's bicycle ride, then stop by later in the day.)
(ALSO ALSO: Top tracks/albums of 2010 so far coming up eventually. I always take too long on this stuff-- it was supposed to be for the first three months of the year.)
- Cowboy Mouth at Vaudeville Mews April 14
- A Weather at Vaudeville Mews April 15
- Nadas at People's Court April 16
- Julian Casablancas at People's April 23
- Manchester Orchestra w/ Thrice at People's April 25
- Poison Control Center's Record Release Party at Vaudeville Mews April 30
- Canby's Record Release Party w/ Golden Veins (ex-Beati Paoli) at Vaudeville Mews May 1
- Poison Control Center's Record Release Party at the M Shop in Ames May 1
- Brother Ali at Vaudeville Mews May 2
- As I Lay Dying at People's Court May 3
- Owl City at Val Air Ballroom May 4
- Harlem w/ the Jitz at Vaudeville Mews May 5
- Mayday Parade at People's Court May 5
- Afroman at Vaudeville Mews May 13
- Baroness at Vaudeville Mews May 17
- MONO w/ the Twilight Sad at Vaudeville Mews May 18
- Mark Mallman w/ Why Make Clocks at Vaudeville Mews May 19
- Maxila Blue's Record Release Party at Vaudeville Mews May 21
- Pocahaunted at Vaudeville Mews June 4
- Damien Jurado at Vaudeville Mews June 6
- Pearly Gate Music at Vaudeville Mews June 9
- The Melvins at House of Bricks June 27
- 80/35 Festival July 3-July 4
- Phoenix at 7 Flags Event Center, Aug. 10
- Keith Urban at Iowa State Fair Aug. 13
- Pat Benatar w/ REO Speedwagon at Iowa State Fair Aug. 17
- Darius Rucker at Iowa State Fair Aug. 19
- Sugarland at Iowa State Fair Aug. 21
- Sheryl Crow at Iowa State Fair Aug. 22