Post-punk-tinged pop music emanated from the Casbah on Friday as Vivian Girls shared the stage with a packed bill, including Dunes, the Babies (featuring Vivian Girls guitarist/lead singer Cassie Ramone and Woods bassist Kevin Morby) and the all-girl Grass Widow. The evening undoubtedly channeled the underground “riot grrrl” movement of the early '90s.
Every opener brought their own sound and style to the stage, but all managed to fit into a cohesive whole. Psychedelic pop outfit Dunes opened the show with a beachy, dream-pop flow. Next, Ramone made her first appearance of the night moonlighting as part of the Babies, delivering lo-fi pop with swoony vocals and strong guitars. San Francisco’s Grass Widow got the riotous girl rock going with a fantastic set of thick-sounding drums and ominous, punky yet soft vocals.
Vivian Girls bounced along to the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” as sound was checked, guitars were tuned and beers were finished. Their appearance at the Casbah brought one of the classic Vivian Girls lineups back together, featuring Vivian-veteran Ramone, Katy Goodman (taking a break from dreamy-pop outfit La Sera to reclaim her “Kickball Katy” throne) and drummer Ali Koehler, who rejoined the band after a brief stint with Best Coast.
The mix of pop sweetness and spirited punk has always made Vivian Girls irresistible and a lot of fun. Their live set perfectly captured their overall sound of sundresses, long pretty hair, tattoos and whiskey shots. Thomas’ raspy, angsty vocals, Goodman’s bass lines and the pounding of Koehler’s furious drumming made it impossible to stand still and required ample fist-pounding and stomping. Don’t be fooled by their pretty looks -- Vivian Girls know how to get a crowd slamming into each other and get a venue shaking.
Yet lyrically, the trio isn’t afraid to be a little vulnerable, as evidenced by tracks “Before I Start to Cry” and “Take It As It Comes.” In true punk fashion, Kickball Katy at one point jumped off the stage into the crowd, kneeling on the sticky Casbah floor and executing furious bass lines.
There was no shortage of contagious heart and soul in their live performance. It’s evident that, despite all their individual side projects and whiskey shots, Vivian Girls have never lost sight of their live performance chemistry. It's safe to say that by the end of the night everybody, yes everybody, was in touch with their inner riot grrrl.