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Girls at the Music Box, Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

On stage, with his blond girlie haircut and his frail figure, Christopher Owens looked like a fragile person with a sort of Kurt Cobain’s complex (the Girls’ frontman was wearing a short jeans skirt!) but the music was strong and powerful, going through many genres, beautifully exploding into some psychedelic moments, warmed up by three women dancing and singing old R&B-style backup vocals.

 The San Francisco band Girls was playing a very packed show at the Music Box on Tuesday night, and after having kicked myself a few times for having missed their set at the FYF Fest back in September, I obviously had to go.

I do love their new album ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ and its unclassifiable diversity. There is indeed something very strange about Girls’ music, which does not happen with many albums you get to listen to. The songs get a personal and individualistic life in your brain very rapidly, all distinct and instantaneously familiar, as if you already knew them for a long time,… it is so bizarre.

The stage looked like an altar of flowers, as bunches of fresh lilies, tulips and other flowers were attached around each mic, on the keyboard table and around the mini-stage where singers Makeda Francisco, Skyler Lucas and Tracy Nelson were standing. You even could smell their odor during the show, if you were close enough; may be it was some incomprehensible leftovers from Chris Owens’ painful upbringing in the Children of God cult, may be it was simply a beautiful thing to do, matching a certain quality in Girls’ music.

 Chris Owens is not a talkative individual, but why would he need to do the conversation when the songs are already so personal and the heartbreaking bleeding all over the tracks? His voice is not very strong but it leads the melody nevertheless and transpires the always-present melancholy of the lyrics.

 They opened the show with the stunning ‘My Ma’ and its dramatic guitars, wobbling-gospel-ish keyboard, and these heart-warming back up vocals, but with lyrics like ‘Oh god, I'm so lost/and I'm here in darkness/and I want to see the light of love/I'm looking for meaning in my life’, the songs were not meant to be cryptic, they were just meant to crush you with bright sadness.

And there was a lot of this brightness, while the band was jumping around of genres with the next songs, like the upbeat lightness of ‘Heartbreaker’ and its heavy lyrics (‘There's a voice in the back of my head that says you're always going to be alone’), the walking-under-the-sunshine tune of ‘Laura’, the crashing-drums-fast-surfing-guitars of ‘Honey Bunny’, or even the big guitar riffs of ‘Alex’. Chris was doing a lot of these half-kneeling, left leg lifting moves, losing soon his oversized jeans jacket and ponytail, looking a little like being in a haze, and alternating songs from their recent release with others from their google-search-proof first album, ‘Album’, and their ‘Broken Dreams Club’ EP.

Many people were singing along, seldom moving, with just some semi-wild jumping around during the bouncing rhythm of ‘Honey Bunny’. It was a calm crowd, very attentive, wearing large black and white buttons with the words ‘We are all gonna die’ on it, the lyrics of ‘Die’, which was the center-song of the show. And if these lyrics are the paroxysm of anguish, 'Die', as several others, provided these long musical pseudo-psychedelic interludes, some layered vibrant colorful unleashed splashes of hard rocking sound, just broken down by a few verses, like ‘Vomit’, another highlight of the show, with its Pink-Floyd-inspired massive guitar explosions mixed with vocal harmonies.

 They finished their first set with the big moody sound of ‘Vomit’, and Chris came back on stage, first alone, to play the moving and intimate melody of ‘Jamie Marie’, which turned into a sing-along over the lines ‘but I miss the way life was/when you were my girl’, and of course everyone (JR White on bass, Matt Kallman on keyboards, Evan Weiss on guitar, Darren Weiss on drums, and the backup singers), came back for the big outburst of the ending, and a few more songs.

The whole show had this thick, empowering sound, sometimes even huge, alternating with intimate moments filled by Chris Owens’ poignant vocals, but overall there was no pretension at all in spite of the obvious numerous musical influences. It is a band that has a big vision, and they are undoubtedly going to be big.

When they ended up playing every song off ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ (except ‘Just a song’), the album was just declared best album of 2011 by MTV!! And this could have explained the big lettered No.1 t-shirt that one of the female singers was wearing.


 1. My Ma

2. Heartbreaker

3. Laura

4. Love Like a River

5. Honey Bunny

6. Alex

7. Substance

8. Lust for Life

9. Die

10. Forgiveness

11. Hellhole Retrace

12. Morning Light

13. Vomit


14. Jamie Marie

15. Saying I Love You

16. Magic

17. Broken Dreams Club

18. Darling

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