Show Review: The Vaselines, The Dum Dum Girls at Great American Music Hall, 10/20/10

by Dakin Hardwick on October 21, 2010

The Vaselines are a band from a very different musical era. They are a hard-to-define band from a period of time when it was difficult to find bands that you couldn’t easily market to people. They didn’t really do punk rock, they don’t really do folk music, they aren’t a new wave band, they are merely themselves. They put out a few ep’s in the 80’s, and were supposed to fade away into obscurity. That was, of course, until a young man managed to come across some imports in his local record store, became entranced by them, and ended up covering not 1, not 2, but 3 of their songs with a little rock trio that became one of the most influential bands of all time.

They officially broke up in 1990, but played a few shows in the early 90’s supporting Nirvana in Europe. Then, in 2008, they decided to reunite at the urging of another influential band from the 90’s. This time it was Belle & Sebastian urging this band back into the limelight. After all, their blend of girl group, twee, punk and lyrics that would make Luther Campbell blush is something the world will finally be ready for. And, at the Great American Music Hall, we experienced what that band sounds like today.

Before jumping into this, I must discuss the excellent opener. The Dum Dum Girls look like what would happen if Andy Warhol directed a Robert Palmer video, but sonically are far more unique than that. They’ve got some impressive three part harmonies, and a sound that is equal parts 60’s girl group, VU-inspired punk rock, and the right amount of jangly, spooky, reverb heavy guitars. They spent the bulk of their set standing stoically, while playing with precision. It wasn’t until about half way through their set, during the song “Everybody’s Out,” where frontwoman Dee-Dee broke character and started looking like she was having fun. She smiled and started really moving around. My only wish was that the band would actually let loose more often, because they sounded better when they were really getting into it.

Set List:

Take Care

It Only Takes One Night

Catholicked

I Will Be

Yours Alone

Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout

Everybody’s Out

Rest Of Our Lives

Wrong Feels Right

The Vaselines opened in a rather non-distinct manner. Original members Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly were supported by an additional guitarist, bassist, and a drummer. They opened up with the jangly classic “Oliver Twisted.” The crowd seemed happy and swayed along, but still pretty civil. The band sounded great, and Eugene’s voice, never really one with much range, still sounds exactly how it did when the song was recorded in the late 80’s.

After the opening number, McKee proceeded to mock the rest of the band, claiming that they only dressed up in hopes of getting with the Dum Dum Girls, which Kelly countered with “Only because you won’t put out.” McKee giggled, and they played “Monster Pussy.” Excellent segue. Less interesting as a transition, but much funnier was McKee describing her colonic that she had that morning, which she got because you don’t want to shit in a tour bus. Then they played the “I Hate The 80’s,” a song from their new record Sex With An X.

That was the general flow of the show… They played a song, then they bantered. The Vaselines initially broke up because the romance ended between McKee and Kelly, and they interacted like, well, exes. There is a weird sexual chemistry between the two. It doesn’t hurt that nearly every song is about fun and raunchy sex.

The band was in really good spirits, and played with much enthusiasm. The only moment where they seemed to be a bit annoyed by the song was when they played “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” which I think they felt compelled to play only because of the Nirvana connection. And, I’m pretty sure the crowd would have also been fine with them skipping this one, it kind of slowed down the set.

Other highlights including a version of “Molly’s Lips,” where they invited the Dum Dum Girls onstage to play the bicycle horn. Only the bassist, Bambi, came on stage at first. She looked far more relaxed than she did during her bands’ set, but I couldn’t tell if it was her glass of whiskey or being on stage with such a legendary band. Dee Dee appeared about halfway through the song, only to dance around and sing along to herself. It was a fun spectacle, and it was nice seeing the real personality of these girls.

The crowd stayed relatively calm until the 3rd song covered by Nirvana was played. It took about 5 seconds of “Son Of A Gun” to shake the crowd up seriously. They moved from swaying and dancing alone to all out circle pit. There was even a guy dancing like a raptor. Seriously. And the band really felt this shift. They played every song with twice the energy and intensity, and it didn’t let up. Even mellower songs, like “Rory Rides Me Raw,” had a punch that was a bit tougher than on record.

They closed out the main set, which was evenly divided between old and new material, with “Dying For It.” And, it really looked like it was the end. That was where the set list stopped, so I had no reason to believe they would continue. But the crowd just wasn’t having it. After plenty of noise was made, they came back out and played a song that they claimed to play rarely, the playful, new-wave-ish “You Think Your A Man,” which elicited the most potent sing along of the evening. In order to tire the crowd out, they went full throttle into the two-fer “Sex Sux (Amen)” and “Dum-Dum.” (Note: The Dum Dum Girls’ Wikipedia page alludes to this song inspiring the name of the band)

The Vaselines put on a great show, and one can only hope that they decide to not wait another 20 years before they decide to play again. Mostly because, well, do you really want to hear someone in their 70’s sing “Monster Pussy”?

Set List:

Encore: You Think You're A Man, Sex Sux (Amen), Dum Dum

Photos By Jonathan Pirro

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