Review and photos – Dum Dum Girls at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, April 4, 2014
– review by Ria Nevada/photos by Ashley Tanasiychuk (pics to come)
On the Dum Dum Girls’ Sub Pop page, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny (Kristin Welchez) recently spoke about the process of writing their latest record, Too True.
“Here it was spelled out for me: Desire as muse; Life as experiment; a miracle for every failure and vice-versa. I put pen to paper and I wrote, and then I sang…. I was a woman possessed and my possession enabled me.” The road to penning the record has absolutely paid off, both in the resulting record and buzz for the band’s current tour, including a Friday night show at the Biltmore Cabaret.
The bouncers had the grim task of turning away last-minute attendees hoping to get into the sold-out show. By the time Portland outfit Blouse wrapped up their hypnotic electro-pop set, the room was crammed mostly with buzzing twenty-somethings .
As sultry ’70s soul played on the house speakers as the lights dimmed in the steamy den, all that could be seen on stage was a floor-to-ceiling blue, fluorescent heart. This set the tone for a performance rife with themes of desire, ecstasy and infatuation.
From the moment the four statuesque brunettes floated onto the stage in their signature racy black outfits (a flashback to the iconic gothic fashion in the ‘90s witch-thriller The Craft), the audience was enraptured. Penney especially elicited jaw-dropping reactions in her shimmery tights, flaming red lips, velvet hot pants and a completely sheer top (save for a couple of opaque patches covering her naughty bits).
The Dum Dum Girls opened with the surf-pop “Bedroom Eyes” from 2011’s Only in Dreams, a song that brought to mind the bushy-tailed anthems of Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders mixed with the Mazzy Star’s grittier lo-fi ballads. On “I Will Be”, the title track of their debut album, they smashed out a rapid power-chord progression – perhaps in subtle homage to horror-punk marvels The Cramps.
These references are not lost but are definitely muted on Too True, the band’s third record. “In the Wake of You” and “Too True To Be Good” evoke darker and more ethereal tones in the vein of Joy Division and Slowdive (British shoegaze was further referenced in a set-ending cover of Pale Saints’ 1990 song “Sight of You”). Dee Dee’s unique, velvet vocals were immaculate on the gut-wrenching “Are You Okay?”, one of the standout numbers of the evening. From where I was standing, the hard-hitting tracks “Rimbaud Eyes” and “Lost Boys and Girls Club” unfortunately lost their dramatic impact in the live setting – the airy harmonies and eerie synth-sounding guitar riffs seemed to get lost in the mix. But this was a very minor misstep in an overall captivating performance.
More Dum Dum Girls at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver 04.04.14 photos:
Dum Dum Girls at the Biltmore Cabaret 04.04.14 setlist:
In the Wake of You
I Will Be
He Gets Me High
I Got Nothing
Too True to Be Good
Are You Okay?
Rest of our Lives
It Only Takes One Night
Under These Hands
Sight of You (Pale Saints cover)