Neo-girl group Dum Dum Girls performed at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom Friday night, supported by an all-star opening lineup of an ex-Vivian Girl, a guitar band and a one-man take on skewed doo-wop.
First up was Dirty Beaches, the solo project of Alex Zhang Hungtai, a musician who has the “Asian James Dean” look down: tight pants, coiffed hair and a handheld low-fi microphone. He sang and occasionally played guitar over his swampy rockabilly backing tracks. Picture the bedroom version of a post-punker’s impression of a ’50s rock band, and you wouldn’t be too far from Dirty Beaches. Hungtai cooed and yelped and shrieked his way into the hearts of the crowd members, who were so enthralled with his braggadocio (I mean the guy paused to comb his hair onstage—come on) that they asked for an encore. It made me wonder whether a full band would open Hungtai’s obvious frontman potential, or whether it would ruin the allure of a one-man outfit that skirts karaoke to retain something primal.
Minks came next, a six-member Brooklyn rock outfit that played guitar-heavy pop songs. The band filled the room as only two guitars, a backup singer, a keyboardist and a rhythm section can. Singer/guitarist Sean Kilfoyle risked the fedora onstage, avoiding Jason Mraz in the process with his shrugging humility and his playful jabs at his brother next to him, playing the guitar (who also happened to be a rather accomplished soloist). Backup singer Amalie Bruun looked statuesque in a striking red dress and sang in a breathy vocal. Bruun rarely cracked a smile or shifted her straight-ahead pose. Minks is an example of why guitars aren’t going anywhere; they really tie the room together.
Frankie Rose, previously a drummer for Vivian Girls, fronted her new band, a post-punk outfit. With a powerful lead guitarist and a propulsive rhythm section, the band provided a great springboard for Rose’s persona, which ranged from goofy to goofier. Rose was easily the most colorful personality of the night, commenting on everything from her reverbed mic to her final song of the night, an untested song that Rose claimed “could either be like a trip to Guitar Center, or it could be good.” It turned out to be both.
Finally, Dum Dum Girls came on, a fetching girl group that played a litany of short, dirty, harmony-drenched pop songs about love. Frontwoman Dee Dee (real name Kristin Gundred) led the band in distorted, propulsive, catchy rock. Dum Dum Girls has a kind of throwback thing going on, with the heart of its music remaining entrenched in the 1960s. At the same time, Dee Dee was a sneering, detached, energetic stage presence, completely indebted to lo-fi indie, except for her outfit. Dum Dum Girls is a band composed of women dressed to the nines. That wasn’t lost on the crowd, and I doubt it was lost on the members that part of the band’s popularity is due to their legs. That said, Dum Dum Girls is at the top of its game when it comes to driving, harmonic rock, so I suppose the compliments are just an added bonus.