Vivian Girls played twice in St. Louis yesterday. A few thoughts:
1) Whenever a band like this comes to town – specifically a band from New York City – I always wonder to what extent I’m reviewing my own past. Vivian Girls and I have a few NYC friends in common; they are definitely the kind of band I’d have supported from their earliest shows at Cake Shop and Brooklyn warehouses. Then there’s the Rutgers connection: bassist Katy Goodman went there, as did now ex-drummer Ali Koehler. Granted, I missed the New Brunswick basement show scene by several years – but still, that’s two huge parts of my life wrapped up in one package. So as much as I liked their live show – and I did very much – I admittedly brought extra mental baggage to the show. If The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (half of whom I actually did know through Twee.Net and the Indiepop List) ever get around to playing here, I’m sure I’ll feel the same.
2) Supporting Vivian Girls is apparently still a minority position. Check out these reviews for Share The Joy: they’ve been mixed at best. To me, it’s obvious that they’ve gone through some serious growing pains and learned from them. I interviewed Cassie Ramone via email prior to the show, and what struck me most is how humble and encouraging of other musicians she was. This is hardly the same band that gave a gruesome interview a few years ago cartoonishly dissing non-punk suburbanites, and I think they ought to be allowed to move past their awkward early days.
3) On the other hand, there’s this great piece, which sums up Share The Joy far more coherently than I have – and, as a bonus, cogently analyzes the VGs place in NYC and the music scene as a whole. (I’m not qualified to comment on the sexism angle – I have never consciously viewed or heard music through that prism, and I try to sidestep it when I write for better or worse.) My favorite line of the whole piece: “Do you understand New York music? How do you not see this as an important piece in its lineage?“ It’s been 12 years since I’ve lived in New York, but to me the answer is obvious: Vivian Girls are a crucial piece of that continuum, and I wonder if they’ll ever be given credit.
4) Black Lips fans are not happy that I gave their heroes only one sentence. Hey, I liked the Black Lips just fine, but a) we reviewed them for the RFT last time they came to town; b) I envisioned this as a VGs piece, although the argument could be made that I should’ve gone into more detail; c) you didn’t seem that thin-skinned when you were spitting beer at the band and stagediving.
5) “Where Do You Run To” is one of my favorite pop songs of the past several years. I knew they wouldn’t play it, as its writer left two drummers ago. At one time I’d have been disappointed, but yesterday I didn’t even care. That’s high praise in and of itself.