Girls

Girls (photo courtesy of BrooklynVegan)

San Francisco’s Girls rode the recent wave of buzz for their debut release, Album, into New York City Friday, and luckily, I was there at the sold out Bowery Ballroom to capture all the lo-fi surf-poppy goodness.

Not so surprisingly, for me the night was made equally (if not more, sorry Girls) enjoyable by the opening band Real Estate. Hailing from just across the river in New Jersey, their self-titled debut is one of my favorite releases of 2009, and seeing them live only reaffirmed my already glowing perception of the band. On record, Real Estate play breezy, slow tempo lo-fi songs, not too different from Girls. But live they turn it up to 11 and blow their studio sound out of the water. Real Estate began their surprisingly long opening set with album standout, “Green River,” but gave it a full-on Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” fast-paced makeover that jolted the crowd to life. The slowly building, “Suburban Beverage,” took me aback with an uncharacteristic three-part harmony during the song’s only line, “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” By the end of their set, it was clear that they had transformed just about everyone in the venue into fans.

Girls came on not-so-promptly at a little after 11 PM. With a brand new backing band after former guitarist and drummer left the group during a recent European tour, lead singer Christopher Owens and bassist JR White ran through most of Album with ease and precision.

Real Estate (photo courtesy of BrooklynVegan)

Real Estate (photo courtesy of BrooklynVegan)

The crowd jumped and sang along rowdily to album favorites such as “Lust For Life” and “Laura”. Owens sang through his long, matted hair in his nasally voice with a look of serenity and non-emotion throughout the whole show. He barely batted an eye even as a fight almost broke out within the crowd when an inconsiderate fan and his drunken girlfriend pushed to the front of the stage during Girls’ first song (funny enough, that inconsiderate person turned out to be the guitarist for fellow lo-fi buzz band, The Smith Westerns). Despite the occasional crowd rudeness, Girls’ performance was highly enjoyable. At times it was clear that some of the kinks of working with a new backing band were still being worked out. New guitarist Ryan Lynch played almost too carefully as he stood motionless and only moved his head to look down at his fingers or up at Owens. Fortunately, the quality of Girls’ songs themselves and the enthusiastic crowd overcame any timidity from the performers. The highlight of the night for me was the harmonious cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” during Girls’ short encore. Maybe it was the unseasonably chilly weather outside, but Girls’ sunny, west-coast vibes seemed to hit the spot just right and ended up being well worth the $15 ticket.

– Bryant Kitching


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