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Review: Vivian Girls cut through the hype, show off their chops at Crowbar



The much-hyped Brooklyn trio Vivian Girls barnstormed into Tampa's Crowbar Tuesday night. Though their two albums have been met with critical acclaim, they have also felt the backlash of music bloggers who dismissed them as nothing more than a gimmick.

At this point, Vivian Girls seem to play loud, confident and have fun doing it. Live, their amalgamation of punk, surf, '60s Phil Spector girl-pop and garage rock becomes feral and raw.

Their simple yet solid and thundering rhythm section; sinuous, treble-heavy guitar; and hauntingly sweet vocal harmonies juxtapose perfectly with each other.

Combined, the recorded catalog of Vivian Girls consists of about 30 songs and clocks in at just over one hour in length. In the hands of a lesser punk band, that collection of songs would be played as fast as possible in its entirety every night.

But after having played close to 300 shows in the last few years, Vivian Girls aren't prone to rookie mistakes. On Tuesday, before a crowd of maybe 120, singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone led the band through a 15-song, 45-minute set. Her reverb-drenched vocals melt away into the music, becoming the melody over piercing guitar chords.

Bassist Kickball Katy and drummer Ali Koehler kept things together with their straight-ahead playing, both offering just enough flourishes, fills and backing vocals to make each song its own.


The set was heavy on material from 2009's Everything Goes Wrong, including I Have No Fun, The End and Out For The Sun.

The highlight of the night came on the last song, Damaged, from their 2008 self-titled debut. The two-minute song was jammed out to around 10 minutes; the band members all switched instruments without missing a beat. Vivian Girls could have turned the finale into a complete sludge-fest, but they kept it within the confines of the song's three-chord change.

A lesser band may have taken the opportunity to smash a guitar or knock over the drums. But again, Vivian Girls aren't prone to rookie mistakes.

-- Gabriel Loewenberg, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:14pm]


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