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Girls, Nobunny & Papa played 2 nights @ Bowery Ballroom (pics & review)

photos by Ryan Barkan, words by Andrew Frisicano

Girls
Girls

San Francisco’s Girls headlined two sold-out nights at Bowery Ballroom on Thursday (9/22) and Friday (9/23). The band performed in a sea of floral arrangements, which seemed to make the connection between their poppy tunes and sunny ’60s-era idealism. There was plenty of cheeriness (“Hunny Bunny,” “My Love”) from their new record, Father, Son, Holy Ghost. But the album has a darker side too: the metal thrashing of “Die,” the whispered desperation of “Vomit,” with its Dark Side of the Moon-style rapture at the end. The touring band, eight members strong with a trio of backup singers, vacillated between those two modes over the course of their 90-plus-minute Thursday night set.

Girls are excellent at mirroring the musical styles of the past, from surfy Beach Boys tunes to soulful McCartney-esque ballads. And frontman Christopher Owens seemed content to lets the polished sounds of the band take over, though the show’s best moments featured him at his most bare. When Owens came back alone for the first song of the encore, “Jamie Marie,” the crowd chuckled along at his rambling asides. The band came back to finish that song and play “Substance” and “Just a Song,” completing the trio of sleepy send-offs.

In the role of the tortured frontman-down to the bleached blond hair and opiate addiction-Owens is a compelling presence that puts the band beyond being a mere nostalgia act. But the setlist Thursday night didn’t really do him any favors. Front-loaded with hits like “Lust for Life” and “Laura,” the second-half of the show dragged on, and reinforced the sameness of some of his songs.

Nobunny, whose First Blood is easily one of my top five album’s this year, opened the show with a hilarious, grimy set. The opener, “Your Mouth,” tipped the crowd off to his perverse humor, which continued with songs that included “(Do the) Fuck Yourself,” “Blow Dumb,” “I Am a Girlfriend,” “Ain’t It a Shame” and “You Don’t Like Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a Nobunny-penned Hunx song that got the biggest reaction of the night.

The first band, Papa, made up of Girls’ guitarist and drummer with a piano player and bassist, proved to be competent musicians, but the group just didn’t have the songs to make the set enjoyable.

More pictures from Friday (the review is from Thursday) below…

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