Girls, Magic Kids, Smith Westerns Wednesday, February 10 Bluebird Theater
Christopher Owens has guided Girls through any number of seeming contradictions during their set at the Bluebird. Such as: taking the Beach Boys "Little Honda," borrowing a guitar line here and a bass line there and re-appropriating them over a wall of feedback even Yo La Tengo would be impressed at. "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" is an appropriate title.
"I'm gonna rock like no one ever told me to stop/Make you a believer/I'm a big bad mean motherfucker."
Yes you are. Although, to be fair, it was something like two songs ago that you were saying this: "Kissing and hugging is the air I breathe/I'll always leave time for love." So which is it?
The crazy thing about Girls is that I'm going to not only ask you to believe that neither is ironic but that both are true. Owens really is a big bad mean motherfucker because he survived a fucked-up cult upbringing that killed his brother and whored out his mother, yet here he is, drinking deeply of the present, leaving time for love.
No need to spend an entire review dwelling on the cult thing -- after all, Girls is a kickass band regardless of whether or not you know their history. Only one more thing: All those lines about love, all those doo-wop sentiments he ripped off the '60s when he was digging for those grooves, he sings them with a pained grimace. That is a part of him.
"Hellhole Ratrace" eases into some melodic fuzz on the album cut. Live, that fuzz is HUGE, looming and screeching feedback -- the demons unleashed. "So come on come on come on come on and dance with me,"
Owens sings and everyone is in some kind of awe. Why do we like feedback in rock and roll music? It's the breaking point of the electronics, it's like turning everything up to eleven and then torching it. But we also like it because it provides a contrast. It's the hill we climb so that when it fades we can enjoy the view.
Girls are the perfect band for this because when they aren't big bad mean feedback playing motherfuckers, they are the house band for a only-slightly drugged out sock hop.
The crowd is all high on life (and pot) from a bill that's all about seizing days from top to bottom. The next time Smith Westerns come through Denver, they'll probably be playing for a considerably larger crowd than the couple-dozen they drew as first opener tonight.
These kids (literally: if any of them have cracked twenty, it was very recently) hit the blog buzz last year, which means ... nothing. But their music isn't about a trend. This is seriously awesome stuff, love songs and the like played with real punk rock abandon.
If Elvis Costello OD'd on Prozac and then hosted Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, that would be almost exactly like Magic Kids. Cartoonishly optimistic and bright-eyed, the touring version of this outfit is just the dudes -- back home in Nashville they play with a few ladies on strings and horns.
The guys packed the exuberance, however -- insanely lanky frontman Bennentt wobbles around the stage, ambles into the crowd, and generally keeps everyone smiling. Rooting against this band would be like rooting against candy or sunshine, no matter how trite you find the tunes (and, if you're me, you find them pretty trite).
So after two performances by on-the-rise bands that can't stop smiling, Girls get the pleasure of playing to a crowd that's already been won. Not that they needed it. Still, the gyrating support of the kids packed into the pit is enough to drag a pair of encores from Owens and company. The whole affair ends well before midnight, but, if their music is honest, we imagine all three bands were just getting started.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Album was one of my favorite, um, albums from 2009. Girls are the sort of band you never regret popping into your stereo. Random Detail: Girls' bassist J R White introduced his band like this: "We are the Smith Westerns. Best band in the world." By The Way: This concert was the cure for whatever might have been ailing you. Seriously -- no way to leave unhappy.