Live in Oberlin (Last Night)

Last night was a rough one. Drew and I drove out to Oberlin to see Girls and Dum Dum Girls at the Sco, an on-campus venue in Oberlin's student union. I was really looking forward to the show -- we had seen Girls twice before (once in Portland opening for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and once in Cleveland opening for Los Campesinons!), but we had never seen a show where they were headlining. We had also heard that they had added a keyboard player to their line up, so I was interested in hearing how that changed their sound. I was also super stoked to see Dum Dum Girls. I've been listening to them a lot over the last six months or so but had never had the chance to see them live until last night.

The opening act, Leisure, sounded like something my mom would listen to while making Sunday brunch.* The lead singer landed somewhere in between Robert Smith & the dude from Spandeau Ballet & they were heavy on keyboards and jangly guitars, which are things I normally like a lot, but for some reason they just weren't doing it for me last night. Maybe I am just destined to hate on opening bands? I hope not. The crowd was very thin during this portion of the show, but as their set started to wind down, the venue began to get really crowded.

Dum Dum Girls were great -- they started off slow with their cover of "Play With Fire" from the Jail La La 7" & then proceeded to pretty much play all the hits. I was especially happy to hear "Catholicked" and "Yours Alone." I had it in the back of my head that it would be nice to hear "Ship of Love," but they didn't play that one. The band was fantastic though. They sounded great, they played a great set, they seemed really nice, etc. I loved their Silvertone guitars Towards the end of their set (maybe the last two songs?) the crowd started to get weirdly aggressive, though (really crushing in towards the stage, moshing, etc.)

Girls played a fantastic 13 song set that included the bulk of the tracks from their debut LP, Album. Their stage presence was right on & it was just fun to watch them play. Honestly, they get better and better every time we see them. Unfortunately, I started to have a really hard time with the crowd during their performance. Everyone was packed in super tight, a lot of people were being unreasonably aggressive, & people who weren't moshing were talking super loud and playing with their iPhones and Backberries. I'm not a huge fan of having to ward off unwarranted physical contact and I had to do that a lot last night. It was like some weird exercise in fighting off my inherently punk instinct to spit on people who invade my personal space at a show.**

It's hard, because I really don't want to make this about the crowd -- I feel like these experiences should ultimately be about the music & both Girls and Dum Dum Girls played an amazing show to an awful audience last night, which is admirable, but also terrible because, seriously, I think people who take the risk of putting themselves out there in such a public way should at least be treated with respect. (Also, can people not repeatedly scream out requests? Or is this a thing that has to happen? I feel old and crotchety for having these complaints, but I would really rather listen to a band play through their set without each song being punctuated by some dude shrieking, "Play ___!!!" but maybe that is just me.)

In fact, I think a big part of it is just me. On the way home Drew and I were talking about how we both staunchly situate ourselves within the "No Fun" camp. I mean, I hated college kids back when I was one and working full-time in higher education hasn't done a whole lot to facilitate a change of heart. So, being packed in with like 300 college kids is basically one of my worst possible nightmares. On top of that, I am secretly a 15 year-old sanctimonious straight-edger who has an unreasonably short fuse for the ways that people are prone to heckling bands and encroaching on other people's personal space while wasted.

Also on the way home, I was talking with Drew re: my thoughts on Japandroids (who we saw on Tuesday night) and the idea of "dude bands" drawing a particular audience which results in a particular atmosphere at their shows. I think if you were to compare Japandroids to Girls, while both are all-male ensembles, most people would walk away with the conclusion that Japandroids are a dude band and Girls aren't, and while the Japandroids show certainly attracted a large number of straight-up bros, the Girls show attracted an extreme number of the even more insidious "hipster bros," the majority of whom didn't seem to have any concern for making sure their actions reflected a desire for everyone at the show to both have a good time and also feel safe. At the Japandroids show, I was near a group of bros who were very friendly and very courteous, and also took the time to talk to the people around them (mainly petite girls who had elbowed their way up front so that they could actually see the band), saying "Hey, I really love this band and am probably going to get really into it, but if I get too close to you or if I bump into you or anything like that, let me know so that I can back off." It would have been SUPER COOL if some of the dudes at last night's show had shown similar concerns instead of assuming that they could grind all over me.

Anyway, Dum Dum Girls have their first full length out on Sub Pop (you can read my thoughts on that here & Girls are still riding high on their LP Album which came out on True Panther Sounds. They're still touring & if they're coming anywhere near you, you should definitely, definitely catch them. Don't let my crabbing stop you!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the keyboard player is a good addition for Girls.

* In case you are wondering: My mom's typical Sunday brunch music includes stuff like Weekend, if that helps you piece their sound together.
** An exercise I had limited success with.


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