The Vaselines are a Scottish band that formed in 1986, the year I was born. I admit I’m not terribly well-versed in what happened between now and then; I found out about the show from another music blog. Regardless, I am very glad that 23 years later I was able to go to the Bowery Ballroom on a cold spring Sunday night to watch them rip through one killer set. This is a band that just oozes cool. They were fairly under the radar back in the day, except for the fact that Kurt Cobain was in love with them, covering their songs and even naming his daughter Frances after the lead singer (you can’t get a much cooler endorsement than that). Even though time has passed, it seems that not too much has changed. The band still has prodigious post-punk pop tunes, and even though they may have a few more gray hairs, they haven’t lost an inch of that cool. Unlike many popular bands that reunite, it didn’t seem like they were past their glory days. They shredded through all of their old songs and even played some new ones with a mature excellence that left everyone happy.
They’re also simultaneously the most adorable and totally badass band I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the accents, but I didn’t know it was so possible to be so darned cute, even while discussing masturbation and blow jobs between almost every song. At one point, France McKee stated that she drank the blood of virgin boys after every show, and all I could think was, “Aw, she is adorable!” I think that perfectly encapsulates their music: completely accessible but with a very sharp edge.
Another reason I left my nice, cozy apartment on a cold Sunday night was to catch openers, Woods. I love their new album, and was expecting quite a lot from their live show. I was immediately excited to see that I recognized one of the band members wailing away into headphones, holding court over a pedal board ruled by a tape deck. It was none other than one half of Noise Nomads, who I saw at Silent Barn a few months back. I didn’t realize that the projects were related, but I now see how the whole tape-deck thing fits into Woods’ freak folk style of music. Totally cool.
I thought the band put on a very good performance. Their songs are complicated mixtures of sixties beach guitar sounds with seventies southern rock with 80s new wave synth. I know this sounds crazy, but they’re almost a cross between Cream and Devo. Listen to the guitar riff in the beginning of “Rain On.” If that doesn’t sound exactly like “Gut Feeling” by Devo, I’ll never blog again.
This mish-mash of guitar sounds made for a very cool set, especially when Woods really started to rock out. In fact, I would like to have seen a little more exploration of these riffs in the live setting- all the songs seemed too short to me (I guess better too short than too long). Also, one of the reasons I love their new album so much is that all of these older sounds make it feel like a secret portal into another time, a relic of a rock and roll past that I get to relive anew. It’s an intimate record. Watching the band perform live took away some of the intimacy and mystery. Much like that recent Here We Go Magic show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, I liked Woods’ set, but I think I might prefer them recorded. Still, a great night out. Rarely does a bill give you so much bang for your buck.
MP3: “Rain On” - Woods