Toward the very end of Vivian Girls’ energetic set at The Bowery Ballroom, the trio performed a punk rock ballet of sorts. Cassie Ramone crouched on the floor above her guitar, assaulting the strings with a tambourine. She then crossed the stage to join Kickball Katy, who stood there dutifully strumming her bass. Expertly, Katy handed off the instrument to Ramone, who took over without missing a beat. After politely adjusting the strap around her shoulders, Katy approached drummer Ali Koehler, grabbing one drumstick, then another, before finally taking Koehler’s seat, happily banging away. For the final act, Koehler triumphantly picked up Ramone’s abandoned guitar and let out a powerful chord. Suddenly Vivian Girls had seamlessly transitioned into their song “Damaged”—a simple yet mesmerizing feat sure to charm any stragglers not already won over by their fuzzed-out songs, chunky guitar lines and dreamy harmonies.
Vivian Girls split the bill with Times New Viking, out of Columbus, Ohio. They’re another dynamic trio lauded for their sludgy, low-fi punk. Driven by guitarist Jared Phillips, Times New Viking relies on the interplay of drummer Adam Elliott and keyboard player Beth Murphy’s oft-shouted vocals. Though their sound is more aggressive than Vivian Girls, both bands favor punchy, abbreviated songs and tend to elicit retro musical comparisons. But surely the greatest musical common ground shared by both is that cozy layer of fuzz. Peel it away, and you’re left with some intricate guitar parts and some damn catchy melodies. But please leave the distortion. Tonight it was undeniable—we like it that way. —Alena Kastin