Vivian Girls @ Webster Hall

by Jen Hazen

Brooklyn-based trio Vivian Girls’ music just feels so, well, Brooklyn—a little gritty, rough around the edges, with lots of heart, and lots going on. I love Brooklyn. So much, in fact, that I live there atop the largest oil spill in U.S. history. No, I don’t drink the water. Anyway, when I saw the trio of Cassie Ramone, Katy Goodman, and Fiona Campbell (new drummer!) play at New York City’s Webster Hall recently, it was evident that the ladies don’t seem to care much about projecting a slick image. It’s refreshing actually. No lace, striped tights, or leather. The look was pretty much T-shirts, jeans, and flats thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong. Fancy is fine, too, but that stripped-down confidence is a lot like their music. It speaks to my inner “I’m a loner. So what?” attitude. Like when I’m walking around the city with my headphones on, feeling zoned out and detached even though I’m around thousands of people, but whatever. I’m introverted so I’d rather just observe.

Yes, Vivian Girls’ third full-length Share the Joy (Polyvinyl) soundtracks that insulated feeling very nicely. It’s slow, hazy dirge with lush three-part harmonies that sound a bit more bleak than blissed out. There’s no upsell. This is lo-fi, no bullshit realism. Vivian Girls played several new songs as well as old faves like, “I’ll Tell the World.” (You see them running in place, don’t you?) Those from Share the Joy still capture that detached angularity, but with more sha-la-las and harmonies galore. These songs are looooong and drawn out. Take, for example, “The Other Girls” which clocked in at almost seven minutes of fuzzy slow guitar strums, thick harmonies, and a steady, repetitive bass drone with no crescendos. Some say it’s too repetitive.

Near the five-minute mark, I looked from lady to lady on the stage, wondering who was gonna queue that the song was over. No one did for quite a while. Vocalist/Guitarist Ramone just kept on with a nonchalant coolness, usually staring at the ground, seemingly withdrawn into her own world. Vocalist/Bassist Goodman totally counteracted that. She swayed, smiled, and talked to the crowd between songs. The two strike a great balance both on stage and with their music. VGs’ third drummer, Fiona Campbell, played as expected. Nothing too fancy to overwhelm the drone, yet just enough to give each song a small dose of ’60s girl group dreaminess. 

There was an unexpected uptick of cheeriness though when the band played new song, “Take It as It Comes”—a tongue-in-cheek, head-bobbing ditty. Ramone sang as though she was reenacting a lecture from mom. You know, the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus talking points to help the daughter land a dude. “You’ve got to take it as it comes/You’ll never get a guy now/If you chase a guy down.” Hilarious. 

image via Polyvinyl

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