Tuesday, 29 May 2012

847 GIRLS, Weird Dreams, London Kentish Town The Forum, Monday 28 May 2012

Having previously declared my choosiness for London gigs these days – especially on a school night – its’ odd that I’m now in the midst of 3 gigs in the Big Smoke in a row, and all in 8 days! This one was the only UK date for US alt rock newbies Girls, another recommendation from Tim, and whose “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” album was a late grower in 2011, pitching between the textural, monotone yet absorbing style of Boston’s Wheat, a bit of seemingly de rigueur Buddy Holly style 50’s soda bar doo-wop balladry, and some clean, understated vocal harmonies which for me recalled Gigolo Aunts. High praise indeed, so off we go!

Tim and Trace picked me up early and unprepared at 5.30, and we scooted off to old stamping grounds Kentish Town, getting lost twice north of Camden (!) but still parking up the road from the Forum just after 8. The old place had clearly had some TLC since my last trip here, looking re-floored, opened out and spruced up somewhat. We took more notice of support Weird Dreams this time, but after a good opening number, with some harmonic jangle recalling Attic Lights, they tailed off into pleasant but unremarkable wallpaper pop. Again.

The place was packed and uncomfortably warm (no air-con on; bah!), with an unusual high proportion of, erm, girls, amongst this very young crowd. Is Girls mainman Christopher Owens this generation’s opiate-fuelled slacker sex symbol, I wondered; an Evan Dando for the new millennium? Anyway, the lights dimmed at 20 to 10 and the 8 piece band, led on by Owens, a diminutive floppy haired blond, dapper in white blazer and spotty tie, took the flower-bouquet festooned stage to a frenzied welcome, and eased into plaintive, slow burn opener “My Ma”.

The set initially passed in a haze of blissful sun-kissed Californian psych-pop, warm and redolent of both 50s and 60s; all very lovely, but I couldn’t help feeling it needed a kick-start. A strident middle eight to the comparatively rockier “Ghost Mouth”, half a dozen numbers in, nearly provided it, but then the impressively larynxed main female backing vocalist exhorted the crowd to, “make some noise!” and handclap the intro to “Alex”. This, easily their best number anyway, was magnificent, a slice of tempo-changing and absorbing lushness reminiscent of The Drop Nineteen’s classic “Winona”. “Vomit” followed, the moody, claustrophobic “Creep”-like first part descending into Husker Du wig-out guitar noise (unsurprising, given Owens’ hardcore roots) then clearing into almost Motown-like soul confessional, with a thunderous climax greeted by an equally thunderous – and lengthy – ovation. “Hellhole Ratrace” took a similar route, with a stark refrain, “I don’t wanna cry, my whole life through…” looping over and over, as the musical backdrop changed from plaintive balladry to a stormy Seafood-like feedback squall. A wonderful mid-set triad!

As if needing to clear the air, Owens steered the set into calmer, more Summery waters again, with a stripped back “Forgiveness”, before “Lust For Life” closed it out with a moshpit receiving this upbeat and surprisingly conventional pop number. A 3 song encore, the best number of which was the opener, the galloping, chuntering “Honey Bunny”, preceded the otherwise taciturn Owens thanking the enthusiastic crowd profusely for coming, and the band hurling the flowers into the audience. A fitting and inclusive end to a very fine set.

I grabbed a set-list, thanks to a friendly bouncer, before a few diversions and an unscheduled trip along the A40M to pick up the M25, thus avoiding M4 junction closures, saw us arrive home about ¼ to 1. A heavy going journey home, but Girls made it worth the effort!


  1. So was it only me who thought the sound was very distorted; as in overloading the hall's PA? I just thought the whole show was played at 11, which killed the music and I don't think the band knew.

  2. Actually Geoff, that's a fair comment. Admittedly I was down the front, stage right, but I did think the sound was a little glary and not as clean as I'd expect at a venue of that size these days...