Vivian Girls
The Summit, Columbus, August 28
by Matt Slaybaugh

It’s a good thing the Vivian Girls are so nonchalant about their music, otherwise all the troubles of their Friday night show at the Summit in Columbus could have been really annoying.

Taking the tiny stage just before midnight, the Girls were greeted by a smattering of applause as bassist Kickball Katy tried in vain to get the kids to show some real interest. I don’t know what song they played first, it was definitely from their first LP. The tracks are kinda hard to tell apart anyways, but the Summit’s P.A. transformed the Vivans’ unconcerned mewling and strumming into an undifferentiated sludge. Spirited, sunny and pretty, but sludge nonetheless. (I saw the band in a park in Chicago a month ago and can vouch for the fact that they’re a tight unit who can rip and bop with the best of ’em.)

Early on the Girls’ teased a surprise they’d prepared for the Columbus crowd. A few onlookers, mistaking the bassline, started singing aloud, “Summer lovin’ had me a blast....” For a brief moment it was completely believable that they’d choose to cover a song from Grease. Not a bad idea for a Vivian Girls B-side, come to think of it. After asking, “Is it true this is your state song?” Katy requested more light, admitting that she’s not good enough to play in the dark. Alas, the answer is “no.”

Three tunes in, the band was beset by troubles, A failing bass cable and a malfunctioning guitar caused them to take three tries at one song, throwing in a bass-and-drums-only take on “Hang On Sloopy” with Columbus legend Don B. assisting to fill time during the tech work on the guitar set-up. Once everything was working again, they played about five more, including a couple off their new record, Everything Goes Wrong, whose titled seemed a bit prophetic this night. “Tension” saw Cassie Ramone switch to acoustic, which was a nice change of pace, but even as the 45-minute set wore on the sound never got any better. You could tell when they were playing new songs, though, because they were a little slower, Katy didn’t smile as much, and drummer Ali Koehler didn’t look so stressed. The pounding “Out for the Sun” actually got some of the finally drunk-enough crowd dancing. They followed it with the full-band (and Don B. again) version of “Sloopy,” then wisely called it a night. Less than an hour, fewer than a dozen songs, including Don B’s two appearances. Strangely, neither the band nor the crowd seemed at all disappointed. Huh. Maybe next time.