Dum Dum Girls
October 20, 2010
@ Great American Music Hall
Better than: Your significant other making fun of your performance in bed.
If the whole music thing doesn't work out, the Vaselines
could make a killing at stand-up comedy. Last night at Great American Music Hall
, ex-lovers Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee filled the gaps between their sprightly, smutty indie-pop songs -- several of which you probably know because they were covered by Nirvana -- by making seemingly endless jokes at the other's expense. Much of this witty banter concerned the Scots' favorite topic -- sex -- although McKee did go on a good run discussing the consequences of having a tour van toilet that can handle only one kind of human waste.
Sex with an X
-- and last night certainly wasn't the first time
that the two original members of the Vaselines pretended to have rekindled their '80s fling. But even if these ripe exchanges were part of an act, that didn't make them any less funny.
This is all to be somewhat expected for a band whose new reunion album is titled
Frances, the only member with a wedding ring, opened by making fun of Eugene (and the other three male members of the band) for "sprucing up" to impress the lithe vixens of opening act Dum Dum Girls
, joking that they were all "feeling it" last night, the first night the two bands played together.
"Long gone are the days, Frances, when you used to feel it," the dapper Eugene shot back.
"I didn't feel it -- I faked it," Frances returned, as the crowd laughed.
Later, Eugene informed the crowd that Frances had had a high colonic earlier in the day. "It's the first time ever on tour, Frances, that you're not full of shit," he quipped. But Frances explained that they had all recently been in Mexico, and "everyone else has had the runs for days." Besides, she continued in her adorable Glaswegian acccent, "this is California. I'm sure everybody in this audience has had a colonic."
And so it continued like that, for a little over an hour. In between barbed exchanges, the Vaselines actually played music -- and their bristling, three-chord grunge-pop sounded tossed-off, sassy, and euphoric. Eugene and Frances have long joked that they'd be unknown without Nirvana, and last night, many of the songs covered by Kurt Cobain got the biggest reaction -- especially "Son of A Gun," which riled a few drunk kids up into a surprisingly rowdy mosh pit that continued through much of the set.
"Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam" incited mass singalong and big grins from the crowd, earning some of the biggest cheers of the night. The band -- which includes three other musicians besides the main songwriters and vocalists -- went from that straight into "The Devil Inside Me," which tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the Vaselines feel about religion.
New songs like "I Hate the '80s" proved that the Vaselines still have the songwriting talents they did back in the '80s. Current single "Sex with an X," which might as well be this band's anthem, came through just as jangly and deliciously lewd as any of the band's older songs.
Not really thrilling physical performers (ha), Eugene and Frances pretty much stood at their mic stands and strummed their guitars the whole show -- although that didn't stop the fans in front from getting fevered. (At one point, Frances, acting like the mommy she's become, had to tell the wild kids not to bash into the people in front.)
During the encore, the Vaselines performed an off-setlist cover of Divine's "You Think You're A Man." The song features an extended vocal back-and-forth for its chorus, which concludes, "You think you're a man/ But you just couldn't see/ You weren't man enough/ To satisfy me." It was a perfectly appropriate moment: with much of the room singing along, the ever-accusing Vaselines had finally worked their comedic act into their musical one.
Opener: Dum Dum Girls
came off like a darker, sexier, more cunning advance on the Vaselines. (Their name is partly an homage to the Vaselines' first proper album, Dum Dum
.) This all-female California foursome deals in uptempo riot-grrrl-esque rock. At times their songs slow down to approach shoegaze territory, but Dum Dum Girls never sounded quite as derivative of the Jesus And Mary Chain as so many of their contemporaries can. Two members came up onstage to giggle and honk a bicycle horn during the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips," and Eugene -- seemingly not wanting to attract another round of mockery from Frances -- did his best to ignore them.
The crowd: Young, old, about half-male, half-female, and enthusiastic. The venue wasn't completely full, but it wasn't noticeably empty, either. In the very front, a smattering of young dudes appeared to have snuck in a whisky bottle, which fueled a great deal of sweaty revelry and bouncing around -- much to the irritation of some older ladies they were standing near.
Personal bias: I came to the Vaselines via Nirvana, and it seemed like most people there last night did, too.
Quote of the night: One dude hollered down from the balcony in a Scottish accent: "You guys are great!" Eugene replied: "Thank you. Can we get that in writing?"