Recap: Dum Dum Girls at Union Transfer
Recognizing Dum Dum Girls’ lead singer in a context outside of stage performance is likely no easy task. As the frontwoman of the low-fi garage-rock quartet, Dee Dee (known as “Kristen Gundred” in the non-Dum Dum Girls world) blurs in with the rest of the band in a flash of American Apparel hot shorts, caked-on makeup, and shiny black hair. In order to distinguish themselves from other female-fronted, retro-tinged bands (such as The Vivian Girls and Best Coast), the members of Dum Dum Girls don irreverent stage names and semi-goth, semi-glam pin-up costumes. If you can make it past the color-coordinated instruments and excessive hip thrusting, however, you can see just how vulnerable Dee Dee makes herself while performing—perhaps putting more of her real life on display than even the most earnest of folk singers.
The band’s performance at Union Transfer was one stop of many in a long string of shows promoting Dum Dum Girls’ second full-length album, Only In Dreams, the significantly moodier follow-up to last year’s I Will Be. Since the release of the album, Dee Dee has attributed the shift in lyrical content—less focus on puppy love and more lengthy ballads detailing bouts of sleeplessness and anxiety—to the recent loss of her mother to cancer and to the separation anxiety from her husband (Brandon Welchez, lead singer of last night’s second opening band, Crocodiles) while touring last year. Though many lyrics from the new album are vague enough for listeners to apply to the age-old tales of heartache and boy problems, many pieces of the group’s performance still allowed space for interpretation beyond those topics.
Dee Dee took the stage before the rest of her bandmates to sing Crocodiles’ “I Wanna Kill,” with her husband during the band’s opening set; the couple ended the song with cutesy stage PDA, clearly eliminating the separation anxiety from last year’s tour. She left the stage without a word, and when she returned with her band, she went from one song immediately to another, stopping only to thank the crowd every now and again. A few songs into the set, the group performed “Bedroom Eyes,” the first single from Only In Dreams. The song comes off as a seductive take on longing and helplessness with the repeated chorus, “I need your bedroom eyes,” though it was difficult to discern such helplessness from anyone other than Dee Dee. Bambi, the red-headed bassist, looked fashionably bored throughout the entire show, while guitarist Jules cracked approximately one smile somewhere during the set’s first half. That sense of determined ennui stayed consistent throughout the show, which ended with a well-received cover of The Smith’s “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.”
For its one-song encore, the band performed “Coming Down,” a new track that, coming in at about seven minutes, is by far the longest recorded by the group yet. Though Bambi was still frowning in the corner, Dee Dee did something different with her voice, offering the crowd a long-noted cry with the lyrics, “You abuse the ones who love you.” That brief point within the show acted as a hint of what Dum Dum Girls has to offer beyond its black-on-black-on-black get up and bangs; just as quickly as it came, though, the band was finished playing. —Marielle Mondon