Live Last Night: Vivian Girls + Crystal Stilts

Vivian Girls: Just gimme shambolic indie pop!.

There's nothing wrong with some "genre rock" and and, in fact, Wednesday night's show at DC9 was a case of there being a lot right with "genre rock." A couple of upstart bands from Brooklyn, Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, came to town to play music that appeals specifically to us folk who dig short, fuzzy, echo-y, catchy songs. And bless them, because there aren't too many band's focusing on this very specific sound, and even fewer doing it as well as these two.

The first set of Brooklyners to hit the stage were Crystal Stilts who managed to be equally ridiculous and enjoyable. If you tried to come up with the perfect late-'80s shoegaze/indie-pop tribute band, you couldn't do much better than Crystal Stilts. The quintet had it all: a mostly tuneless lead singer/warbler whose vocals were completely incomprehensible thanks to layers of reverb; a guitarist who played the majority of the set with his back to the audience while starting down at the ground; a drummer who played pretty much the same exact thing during each song, mixing it up between slow/fast and soft/loud; and a keyboardist and bassist who just kind of stood there looking dazed. If that doesn't sound like your thing, well, it's probably not. But for those of us who love some old-school shambolic indie-pop in the vein of 14 Iced Bears, the Pastels and other bands mentioned in Express's preview of the show it was pretty blissful. The pleasure was almost entirely based on aesthetic but that was fine. They hit the sweet spot with their Slumberland sound and wouldn't you know it -- the band's proper debut full-length will be released by the recently rejuvenated label this fall.

Vivian Girls -- three young ladies, also from Brooklyn, possessing far more tattoos than I would have expected -- were a little more rambunctious, staying away from anything too dreamy and instead keeping the toe-tapping insistent at all times. The lyrics were still completely inaudible thanks to sheets of reverb; the twin, sometimes triple, coos of the three Girls was enough to give you the general idea, though. While Vivian Girls brought to mind many of the same classic acts as Crystal Stilts -- particularly minor D.C. legends Black Tambourine -- they didn't act the part like Crystal Stilts. It was basic garage rock except with more echo and reverb than distortion, and played with amateur charm instead of bar-band muscle. It made for about 25 minutes of -- here's that word again -- shambolic delights.

So who knows if either band will "grow" and tackle some new sounds in the future. If they do, that's cool, power to them. But if they release just one more 10" each of echo-drenched indie-pop and then disappear, well, the world needs bands like that, too.

By David Malitz |  August 15, 2008; 3:06 AM ET Live Last Night
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You didn't go see The Hold Steady last night? Are you saddened by this? The show rocked. Craig Finn is an odd one.

Posted by: wdc | August 15, 2008 9:51 AM

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