Popscene/ 330 Ritch Street
December 18, 2008
Better Than: Your first time. Maybe.
Review by Tamara Rosado
Photos by Tamara Rosado and Scott Vallor
Provocative name--check. Ironic, 80's-style videos featuring writhing models that look as though they've stepped out of an American Apparel ad--check. Genre-bending sound that veers from Pop, Indie, New Wave, Disco, Rock and back--check. Glowing reviews from MTV, NME and SXSW--check. Songs featured on "Gossip Girl"--check.
Undoubtedly, the Virgins have what it takes to be the next big "It" band. With so much buzz surrounding them, the band was a natural choice to headline Popscene's Holiday Gala 2008.
Once the Virgins took the stage, they immediately launched right into "Teen Lovers" and "Radio Christiane," two of the strongest tracks of their full-length debut album. The latter track, with frontman Donald Cumming's rolling vocals, translated well live.
With the start of "She's Expensive," Cumming took off his heavy brown sweater, to the appreciative shouts of female audience members. The tease was over at this point. With "Hey Hey Girl" and "Murder," the majority of the crowd finally started to dance.
Despite the fact that several of the youthful folks in attendance were probably not even born at the time, they were able to mimic Molly Ringwald's "Breakfast Club" dance to perfection. Between the dancing, several non-Loverboy-related headband sightings, and the Virgin's New Wave Pop-meets-Nile Rodgers sound, the night felt very anachronistic.
The song "Rich Girls," anchored by Nick Zarin-Ackerman's thumping Studio 54 bassline, was perhaps the most well-known song. Most of the crowd knew the lyrics and sang along. But despite the good reception of the polished "Rich Girls" and "Private Affair," the crowd favorite was definitely "One Week of Danger," a straight rock song.
While they turned in good performances, the band did not interact with the audience all that much. Guitarist Wade Oates focused on his playing, occasionally flashing a smile or two while drummer Erik Ratensperger's solid drumming and unflagging energy held the band together throughout the night. (I do not think he stopped smiling during the entire show.)
Cumming, however, was the center of the show. With his 50-yard-stare and Fila tank-top, he worked the small stage like an aerobic Mick Jagger. Cumming threw his body into every song--strutting, sweating, and clapping--much to the delight of the fans in the front row.
While the band seemed relaxed and performed well, there were a few moments of technical problems during the show. At certain moments, the sound from the right amplifiers seemed to fade out, and a part of Cumming's microphone became detached early into the night. But as you can probably gather, these incidents did not stop the show.
After the last song, Cumming thanked the crowd, like the nice guy that will call you the day after.
Personal Bias: As an East Coast girl, I have always had a fondness for New York bands (and boys).
Random Detail: Frontman Donald Cumming is also a model. His self-described signature looks are "Complete Distraction" and "Blank Stare." He did not mention "Blue Steel."
By the way: The Virgins will be touring North America through March 2009.