Review / photos: Dum Dum Girls, Tennis, La Sera bring style, substance to Orpheum in Ybor City
The fans rocked a referential air. Their shirts could have been their father’s shirts. One woman had the outline of a fork tattooed on her arm. They drank Pabst Blue Ribbon regularly and defiantly. In a five-minute conversation they could namedrop a pile of obscure bands and artists that would take you an hour to Google your way out of. They were people with jobs that allowed them to stay out drinking on a Sunday. It was an all-ages show, but few kids are out in Ybor on a school night.
Orpheum is a moderate-sized venue. The stage is intimate, allowing patrons to get close to the acts. Artists mingle with fans before their performances, signing autographs and answering questions. The place is not a dive, but by no means plush either. The brick walls are pitted and in places, scribbled upon. There is a handwritten sign taped to the wall in the men’s room that warns: “One person to a stall or you will be asked to leave.” I can only imagine what this is trying to discourage. About a hundred people paid $12-$15 to be at this event, a good turnout for a Sunday.
Dirty Beaches kicked off the evening. Also known as Alex Zhang Hungtai, he uses a handful of loop pedals (that he largely operates with his hands) and a guitar. He sounds like a group of four, justifying the plural name. Some of his music is ambient and arrhythmic, over which his vocals come in twangy, recurring waves. Other times he’ll jam on top of a more structured surf-rock track of drums, guitar and bass. His vocal performance is the thing to see. He could be compared to Jim Morrison, in style at least: tight jeans, boots, closed eyes, bluesy shouts. “Don’t let the devil dance around you,” he sang.
La Sera came on second and played enjoyable, if somewhat un-unique, upbeat indie-pop from Los Angeles. The group of four is lead by Katy Goodman, a cute redhead with scene-girl bangs who plays bass. Her sweetheart vocals compliment the steady 4/4 drumming and atmospheric rhythm guitar. Their music might strike you as suitable for the soundtrack of long, quiet drives with your lover or drinking wine straight from the bottle on the bank of a river. La Sera covered Dedicated to the One I Love, and Mama Cass surely smiled politely from her seat at the right hand of the folk rock father.
Tennis came on third. They continued the theme of female lead vocalists with Alaina Moore, who also played a Hammond electric organ. For the most part, if you closed your eyes, it would have been hard to tell that La Sera got off stage. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Moore sings with more vibrato; she keeps time with a toe-tapping dance. Moore said that they had been touring all winter and when they got to the Florida border, they all happily took off their socks and started enjoying the warmer weather.
Tennis plays music inspired by sailboats. That seems fitting since the guitarist (Patrick Riley, Moore’s husband) wore loafers, khakis and a plaid, short-sleeved shirt. Their music is romantic and fun. It reminded me of an American traveling abroad, drifting through parks, misunderstanding street signs.
Dum Dum Girls were the headline act, although their set was roughly the same length as the previous three groups. They took the stage bathed in red and blue light, greeted by warm, excited applause. Like many bands, the first three groups had to move their own equipment; Dum Dum Girls did not.
As per their name, they are an all-girl group. They wore matching black dresses and black, patterned stockings. Their four-way female harmony adds depth to a rather simple guitar and driving drums combo. The instrumentals reminded me of the stuff Dirty Beaches had been sampling earlier. The faster songs felt alluring and somehow sexy. They inspired the crowd to gently mosh. The slower songs were less interesting; it seemed as though the girls just turned down the metronome without changing the style to match a slower tempo.
Their song It Only Takes One Night appeared on the soundtrack of the soccer video game FIFA ’11. While it’s great that they are getting more mainstream exposure, Dum Dum Girls deserve more than being Muzak played while you slay your buddy 10-0. If you enjoyed the music in last summer’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I suggest you pick up a copy of I Will Be, their debut album.
— Review / photos: Andrew Ford, tbt*