Let’s begin with the outfit. I know this isn’t very, ah, progressive of me, but when a woman takes the stage dressed above the waist in nothing but black pasties and a sheer blouse—as Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls did at Backstage Bar & Billiards last Saturday—it’s hard not to get the impression that she wants you to talk about clothes before her music. She was also wearing velvet hotpants, sparkly leggings and ankle boots, but y’know, breasts. It was difficult not to stare at her (mostly) exposed breasts, even deep into the band’s set.
Maybe that was the point. The Dum Dum Girls revealed more than Penny had to show at their Triple B show: The lo-fi indie rockers demonstrated that they yet to fully develop as a live act. I’m a fan of the Dum Dum Girls’ aggressive, yet thoughtful sound—think Lush, by way of the Raveonettes and the Go-Go’s—but it took a good while for the band to fully deliver it. They went through the motions, playing serviceable versions of “He Gets Me High” and “Rimbaud Eyes,” verse-chorus-versing as if painting by number.
Finally, late in the set, the dam broke. “I Will Be” was a revelation. The rhythm section locked down, and Penny actually stepped away from the microphone and jumped up and down a bit (with her back to the audience, perhaps out of modesty), and she delivered a full-blooded vocal that helped to put the live version of “I Will Be” over the studio cut—a feat that had eluded Dum Dum Girls all night. After that, she could have been wearing a safety orange prison jumpsuit and still had the audience pocketed.
Openers Blouse and Creep Magnet were, strangely, reflections of different facets of the headlining act. Portland’s Blouse played tight, dreamy shoegaze but seemed remote, while Las Vegas’ Creep Magnet was all sex, power chords and cusswords. It would have been close to a perfect bill, if only Dum Dum Girls could learn to deliver another kind of sheer rock-and-roll entertainment. ★★★☆☆