Girls first came to Aftermath's attention this fall when we watched the raunchy cut of their video for the song "Lust for Life." No, not that "Lust for Life," and the video is extremely NSFW unless you work at a place where one dude uses another dude's wang as a microphone. (Incidentally, when Aftermath Googled "girls hardcore video" this was not the first search result.) We're not sure how everyone else heard of them, but by the time opening band The Smith Westerns was finishing up their set last night, Walter's was pretty packed, with a steady stream of still more people coming through the door. The video piqued our curiosity, so we were somewhat familiar with Girls and their Lovin'-Spoonful-meets-Sonic-Youth sound. Yet it's always a pleasant surprise when an opening band blows your socks off. The Magic Kids, who performed second, didn't play anything special - think garage-y nostalgia pop, like a million other bands playing these days - but singer Bennett Foster sure knows how to work a room, singing in falsetto and pussyfooting around the stage and in the crowd as if he was Morrissey.
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The group sounds like the obscure band who's one song gets used in a commercial and is forever stuck in your head. They've been compared to the Beach Boys, and Aftermath hears a touch of the Queers too. The falsetto and calliope-like synthesizer, lend the band a kind of Sesame Street sing-along feel. If that description makes them sound bubbly, they were, but it was a lot of fun to witness. And the bravado works. Fans in the front row were pawing all over Foster by the time they played their last song.
Girls, on the other hand, seemed a little off. Much of their set was mellow, though "Ghost Mouth" and "Headache" were stellar, with singer Christopher Owens over-emoting into his hair on the former. Unfortunately, the rest of their songs felt monotonous, and the warped-cassette-tape effect on Owens' voice that gives the band such a signature sound was absent in the live show. Then, about three-quarters through the show, the band played "Hellhole Ratrace", with practically all of Washington Avenue singing along with them. The song builds into a huge, distorted crescendo, and when the drums finally kicked in the crowd went absolutely bonkers. It was definitely the high point of the show, and almost completely redeemed the band. Afterwards, bass player Chet JR White explained the show's drag. "We're really tired tonight. Dallas has some really, really good ecstasy." "FUCK DALLAS!" yelled someone from the crowd, to which White quipped "Yeah, I know. But you're making us feel really good tonight." They followed that up with the even more energetic "Morning Light", not willing to let the energy fade, and if it's possible, the people on the floor went even more apeshit. After Girls short encore there was an actual line of starstruck fans waiting for them by the stage door. When you have a good crowd at a show it creates a kind of synergy, where the mob mentality of the fans feeds the musicians, building into something greater than its parts. This is not to say that there weren't idiots in the crowd - every show has them. But it's awesome when a band can come to Houston and even on an off night, get the kind of reception that really makes a show. Girls are good, but last night, the enthusiasm of the crowd made the show pretty unforgettable, both for the bands and for Aftermath.