The new Dum Dum Girls album, Only in Dreams, has left such an indelible impression on me, that I was surprised when the four-piece surf-garage band jumped into “Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout” for its second song last night at the Great American Music Hall. I'd all but forgotten about the song, a tune that I'd fallen in love with – hard – not more than a year prior when it appeared on the band's debut, I Will Be. It was a welcome reminder, as was the rest of the set, of both its strong lo-fi past, and hard-earned rock future – those descriptors mostly applying to electrifying frontperson Dee Dee.
She looks like a rocker, in signature striped black tights (which I also spotted on at least two other females in the crowd) and black leather jacket, along with the fringe of black bangs. But it's her style, her commanding voice, and quick snarls with squeezed shut eyes that solidify the role. In between Dee Dee's husband's set (he of the quite fun retro Jesus and Mary Chain-esque San Diego act Crocodiles), and the Dum Dums, the house spun '60s girl groups chant-alongs, a good choice for the night's entertainment. Once the Dum Dums appeared, a few males shouted flirtatious admiration. The non-stop talking duo of middle-aged white men in front of me seemed appreciative too, yet never lulled their own veryimportant chatter. I did the twist out of that section.
There were a few technical difficulties, problems with the rhythm guitar sound apparently, and extra-long tuning, but it hardly detracted from the main show. The Dum Dums play enjoyable music, period. It's reminiscent of Leader of the Pack-girl gangers but has that great fuzzy garage guitar edge. It's all I wanted as a teenage girl looking for something vintage-modern that spoke to me. I wanted the Switchblade Sisters in rock form. I just had to wait a decade.
The biggest moment of the night came at the very end during the the brief encore when the quartet returned to play Only in Dreams' echoing, rolling epic, “Coming Down.” The strength of Dee Dee's voice when the song breaks and she hits “here I go-o-o” rang through the Great American with raw power -- the crowd cheered when she reached that high note. It was like exorcizing demons, or willfully falling down the rabbit hole. We were then left to fend for ourselves out in that cruel rainy abyss of the Tenderloin.
All photos by Chris Stevens.