Vivian Girls, Colleen Green, Aquadolls
The Church on York
February 14, 2014
As Vivian Girls departed the stage, bidding farewell after their final show in L.A., The Church on York was covered in a bed of crushed rose petals and heart-shaped candy. It was as if a hand grenade had exploded in a flower shop.
It was Valentine's Day and the church was decorated like an enchanted 1950s prom; the white decorations and blinking red roses glowed behind heavy doses of artificial fog (Don't forget all the sexual tension.) But there was nothing syrupy about the concert, where a lunatic fringe of daredevil fans violated a church altar to say they were there, one last time, to see the Vivian Girls.
Six years after the release of their game-changing debut LP, guitarist Cassie Ramone, drummer Ali Koehler, and bassist Kickball Katy announced their breakup in January. What brought it on? One would imagine that a lack of ambition - their most endearing quality - and side projects by each member. During their time, the specific retro sound they pioneered was taken on by the more ambitious and popular Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast.
But it was the Vivian Girls who started it all in a Brooklyn loft in 2007, when Cassie Ramone and Frankie Rose (their original drummer), exchanged phone numbers on a tortilla chip. Their three-part girl group, with their harmonies and fuzzy guitars, channeled Spector's wall of sound, with the simplicity of the Ramones - a sound you can hear in the L.A. indie scene with Bleached, Peach Kelli Pop, Aquadolls, and countless others influenced by the Vivian Girls.
The night was kicked off by West L.A. beatnik punker Colleen Green who opened with a fuzzed-out cover of Eddie Money's "Think I'm in Love," which featured a sludge of reverb and her ethereal vocals.
Following Green's solo set, the Aquadolls lit the place on fire with a manic set, led by crazed frontwoman Melissa Brooks, who dressed like a Japanese schoolgirl and played faster and harder than the group's recorded material. By the end of the night, she was crowd surfing during the Vivian Girls set.
It took the Vivian Girls nearly 20 minutes to set up, but like cannon fire, Koehler's drum count shot right into a blistering version of "Walking Alone at Night." From there, a Lord of the Flies dystopian nightmare ensued - primal and gladiatorial - with pockets of pogoing teens hurling a variety of shrapnel into the air - including an unused tampon.
On each of their 16 songs, Cassie Ramone's poetry echoed through the church's excellent acoustics, "It's over now / but it might not be for long / it's been such a waste of time," she sang on "Walking Alone at Night." Ramone never chatted with the crowd, except when she occasionally lost her guitar pick, which fans handed back to her to save the show. After all, it was her only guitar pick.
Throughout the grinding set, Ramone simmered with glittering, primal rage, and rabid fans fed off her animal spirit by rushing the stage to steel kisses from Kickball Katy - who smiled behind a lithe bass touch, which contrasted the debauchery-ridden slumber party that surrounded her.
During the middle of the set, a fan stole the set list. She was violently thrown onto the stage.
"If you didn't already know, please pick people up when they fall down," said Koehler from behind the kit, who quickly noticed the mayhem developing near the steps of the altar. It was, after all, their final show in L.A. (Their final final show will be in Brooklyn on March 2nd, but whatever.)
By the time they got to "Out for the Sun," the light fixtures were down and fans hopped on the stage and used their phones to create a bouncing spotlight that hovered over the girls, who played hard, fast, and obliterated the gushy romance of Valentine's Day.
It was like seeing the Ramones at CBGB, except more violent and instead of leather biker jackets, torn stockings and cherry lipstick broke the hearts of everyone in attendance that night.
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Set List Below
Walking Alone at Night
I Have No Fun
I Heard You Say
I Believe in Nothing
Never See Me Again
When I'm Gone
Before I Start to Cry
Out for the Sun
Tell the World
All The Time
Telepathic Love (Wipers Cover)