Live Review: Gold Ghost, Happy Birthday, Wet Dog, Vivian Girls @ 529, March 25

[ 0 ] March 30, 2010 |

Written by Jhoni Jackson

Opening for Vivian Girls – a well known, long-hyped band that’s probably on their last round of performances at lower capacity venues – is a pretty sweet deal. Atlanta’s fledgling Gold Ghost landed that opening spot, starting the show around 10:30 p.m.  After some post-show research, the band appears a bit more seasoned than their performance implied. They’ve shared lineups with local heroes like Gentleman Jesse and His Men and Barreracudas, among others. But what Gold Ghost lacked that recent bill-mates boast is the ability to put on a distinctly memorable show.

The trio’s presence was amateurish. Several dancing friends encircled the female bassist as if she were the only musician onstage.  The generally fast-paced riffs seemed to borrow from pop-punk obnoxiousness, while the lead singer’s voice reached for low and dooming à la Ian Curtis – and missed. The band looked as young as their repertoire though, so at least they have time on their side. And anyway, ghosts are invisible, cloaked in white sheets or tattered and battered versions of a former self – they’re never gold!

Happy Birthday’s front-man and lead songwriter Kyle Thomas looked like a direct relative of Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Jeff Spicoli. His long, wavy hair, loosely-placed hat and grungy T-shirt made for a decidedly laid-back, beach-bummed West Coast style. Conversely, the band hails from Battleboro, Vt., where the town council once passed a futile but notable petition to indict George Bush and Dick Cheney for crimes against the United States Constitution. It’s also worth mentioning that Battleboro is a hub for nudist enthusiasts, largely because public nudity was legal until 2007. Happy Birthday’s sound reflected the oddities of their hometown in Thomas’ squeaky, whiny vocals over mid-paced indie-pop. The combination exuded a pleasingly fluffy ‘90s vibe.

Like Vivian Girls, Wet Dog is an all-girl three-piece. However, the United Kingdom band’s sound is minimalistic, crisp and uses frequent tempo changes, resulting in controlled mania. The infectious “Lower Leg” had the drummer working overtime to keep up with the shifts. Even more so live than on recording, the back-up “Oh!” shouts latched to memory like a horny, confused dog does to random calves.

Mid-set, a rhinestone-clad, older man in the increasingly thick crowd exclaimed, “Sounds like a Ramones song!” It was a generic, commonly misused reference that should have irked even the least knowledgeable of music fans that overheard. The bedrock of the group’s sound does owe thanks to iconic bands of the same variety, but doesn’t practically every band?

By the time Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy and Ali Koehler of Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls hit the stage, standing room at 529 was maxed out. No matter how little they care to be, the band is hip as hell. The crowd they attracted was expectedly similar; virtually everyone was too-cool-to-move, except for an abrupt mini-mosh up front during the super-short “Wild Eyes.”

The band duplicated their recordings – super-fast fuzz-rock backing Ramone’s perpetually echoing vocals – incredibly well live. They performed exactly as I hoped, slamming songs back-to-back with almost no small talk in between.

It was so packed that without straining my toes, all I could see for most of the set was the bangs of the girls’ nearly identical haircuts. I was reminded that wearing heels to small shows that I anticipate to be overcrowded is a must. They’re usually uncomfortable and almost unbearable by the night’s last song, but as a short female, the extra height is a crucial visual aid.

Follow Jhoni Jackson on Twitter @jhonijackson!

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Category: Live Reviews

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