Review and photos—Vivian Girls at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, Feb 12 2010
– review by Kristina Mameli/photos by Robyn Kent
“That’s a fucking funny ass song to fight to,” proclaimed Best Coast’s front woman Bethany Cosentino. “It’s all about loving each other and shit…”
Leave it to Vancouver concertgoers to provide something to write about, nicely removed from the Olympics madness. Later dubbed “the hipster fight” in goodnatured jest by the bouncers, a hilarious little brawl broke out amongst the patrons of the Biltmore Cabaret during the L.A. band’s third song. No one was hurt in the mêlée, but it must’ve left quite the impression as this was the band’s first trip to Canada. “With ravers as hard as you, we’ll def be back.”
The band, which also features bassist Bobb Bruno with Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler filling in behind the kit, rattled through a set of sugary-surf-pop-coated love songs, calling to mind a much softer and fuzzed-out Bangles, peppered with a couple of slightly more driving dance tracks such as the closer “Something In the Way”.
Best Coast, which plays SXSW in March, proved with their danceable and light pop why it’s definitely a band to watch.
Vivian Girls made it clear from the start that their shoegaze brand of surf-tinged-indie-pop makes them much more than last year’s Pitchfork buzz band. The Brooklyn-based trio delivered an energetic set well worth all the hype.
Their show started on a rather sour note however, with guitarist and vocalist Cassie Ramone’s “Holy Grail” distortion pedal missing and suspected stolen by an audience member. It was quickly returned when it became apparent that without it there would be no show.
“I know you returned it,” she said to the anonymous perpetrator, “but whoever stole it – you’re still a jerk. Without the pedal, we can’t sound like this…”
Rounded out by bassist Kickball Katy and Koehler, the three-piece was much grittier live than one would expect given the finely tuned harmonies on record. The edgy but sensible pop provided a nice contrast to the slower tone the evening had been taking.
Vivian Girls showed great versatility, moving from a mellower side which lures you into a sense of false security, to a moody rock steady one. It was the later of these that got the crowd, notoriously hard to impress, moving with songs such as “The End”.
Koehler emerged from behind the kit for a rousing cover of the Chantels’ “He’s Gone”. Amid pleas from the Girls for quiet, someone inevitably yelled “Free Bird” to scattered laughter and applause. Unimpressed and aided only by tambourines, the three harmonized beautifully as the crowd gave in and clapped along. It was a fresh take on a very dated song and was promptly followed by tumultuous applause.
Cosentino then reappeared, offering additional guitar and tambourine to “Moped Girls” before Vivian Girls closed the show on a sad note.
The last song was dedicated to Georgian luge hopeful Nodar Kumaritashvili who tragically lost his life earlier in the day on a dangerous stretch of track in Whistler. The song, “Before I Start To Cry”, was from the band’s recent sophomore effort Everything Goes Wrong.
During the extended version of the song, Katy moved into the crowd, managing to safely return to the stage before there was not one, but two ill fated attempts by an audience member to stage dive. Third time’s a charm – he finally managed to succeed during the punk-tinged encore.
Also notable were locals Cosmetics, who kicked off the evening with danceable electroclash/goth disco to trip to. The three-piece relied heavily on the use of a keyboard to provide the ‘80’s inspired steady backbeat supplemented by live drum and bass by Felix Felix and Nic M respectively.
Aja Emma’s vocals called to mind a haunting version of Metric worshiping at the alter of Blondie. Mind you, it could very well just have been the platinum blonde hair. Regardless, they were oddly mesmerizing.
More Vivian Girls photos: