If you asked me before to choose, I probably would have gone with the Dum Dum Girls. After all, that band seemingly has it all — sex appeal, guitar power, a penchant for tight black clothing, et cetera. But after the Vivian Girls’ show at the Empty Bottle, I’m not so sure of the merits of such standards. The latter band lacks dynamism on record, which comes through a bit in their live show, but there was a marked difference between the band in a pair of headphones and the band right in front of your face. Charging straight ahead with no pretense and no reservations (and no need to dodge guitar cables in high heels), the Vivian Girls delivered a solid performance of some of the most simple and honest music heard in recent memory.
Let’s be clear here: when people hear words like “simple” and “honest,” they think of singer/songwriters and the freaky folky fallout from doing DMT at an Animal Collective show. Those three gals onstage might be singers and songwriters, but the noise coming from their instruments couldn’t be further from “freaky” or “folky.” It was a wall of blissful ‘90s guitar noise that filled the house and shook me to my boots.
The hallmarks of the “C-86” and “riot grrl” movements from indie rock’s golden age (that perhaps influenced the Vivian Girls’ sound) are a deft combination of naiveté and cynicism, and the band gave that paradoxical vibe a nice realization. With sing-song melodies and idiosyncratic solos, we in the crowd were pulled into the infectious world of the girl group ‘60s, but with a quick bash of their instruments, the band threw us all into a frenzy of thrashing and jangly tones. Rock-and-roll might still retain some of its “boys club” tendencies, but give the Vivian Girls a cranked amp and a sea of overdrive and that glass ceiling might just come crashing down.