Written by Ace Ubas, Photos by Marcello Ambriz
Fresh off the release of their second full-length entitled Only in Dreams, the Dum Dum Girls are looking to make their dreams into a reality – that is if they haven’t already. With the album garnering already garnering positive reviews, the Los Angeles all-female quartet looked to build upon that by embarking on a two-month tour that started in San Diego last Friday night. On Sunday night, I made sure I caught them live as lead vocalist/guitarist Dee Dee, guitarist Jules, bassist Bambi, and drummer Sandy rode their wave of noise-pop tunes to the Detroit Bar in the beach city of Costa Mesa. But they weren’t alone as frequent tour mates Crocodiles and solo artist Colleen Green came along for the ride.
The opener for the night was solo musician Colleen Green. Her setup was minimal, having only a guitar strapped onto her and backed by a drum machine. To say the least, her set wasn’t good. Simplistic, by-the-numbers guitar riffs, Best Coast-quality lyrics, and a boring drum machine programming. I honestly felt that I was watching a high school talent show act.
At least Crocodiles changed my mood. Led by ex-The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower members Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell, the five-piece brought their psychedelic, blues-infused garage rock. Songs like “Mirrors” and “Stoned to Death” were full of fuzzed-out guitars, while “I Wanna Kill” saw Welchez brought out his wife Dee Dee (yes, of the Dum Dum Girls) on stage to sing with him.
When the Dum Dum Girls stepped onto the stage, they were each clad in all-black that gave off a sense of seriousness. This made for an interesting dichotomy since I’m very familiar with their music but never had seen them live before. But don’t be fooled by that seriousness. All it means is that the femme fatales have extreme focus and a high-level of confidence, which showed immediately on set opener “Always Looking.” And even though they all kept a stone-face most of the time, Dee Dee still shook her head back-and-forth as she sang passionately.
Since their songs average around three minutes in length, they played a good amount of songs from each of their releases. Songs like “I Will Be” and “It Only Takes One Night” showcased their ability add textures to each of their post-punk/noise-pop songs, making them more dynamic. “Heartbeat” was their ‘50s rock-n-roll number that had a Buddy Holly-esque guitar line. And one of the first songs Dee Dee ever wrote, “Catholicked,” even made its way into their set, sounding a lot better live with a full band.
On new songs such as “Bedroom Eyes,” “In My Head,” “Wasted Away,” and “Teardrops on My Pillow,” it was Sandy that caught my eye. It wasn’t only because she was physically attractive (as the rest of the band are as well), but it was her steady, rolling drums that kept the songs pulsating. Her rhythm provided the backbone to the songs, proving that she’s one hell of a punk drummer. Yeah, I’ll admit I may have a crush on Sandy Dum Dum….
“Hold Your Hand” and “Rest of Our Lives” provided a nice contrast to the other songs as they were much slower in pace. The tender touch in Dee Dee’s voice brought out the emotional undertones to the songs that displayed vulnerability and delicateness.
The funniest moment of the night came before the song “He Gets Me High,” as Dee Dee switched guitars, but had trouble tuning it. Once she got it tuned, she told the crowd “this is what happens when you let your husband play your guitar.”
The biggest highlight of their set was their Smiths cover of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which can be heard on the He Gets Me High EP. Bambi brought the thick bass lines while Jules shined the brightest on this song, with blistering guitar riffs that howled through the venue.
For their encore, they played “Jail La La,” which is probably their most popular song to date. Playing only one song for the encore, I was a bit disappointed in the song choice. They would have been better off playing “Coming Down.” It’s the longest (six minutes) and most emotional song that they’ve written. Had they played that song live, it would’ve easily been an experience in itself because of the intimacy of the small venue.
With this lo-fi garage-punk genre being convoluted as it is, Dum Dum Girls easily stand out among the rest. Whether its distorted guitar riffs, adding fuzzy effects to chords, adding a barrage of melodies, or layers-upon-layers of vocal harmonies, the songs all had uniqueness to them.