February 10: Girls, Magic Kids

Live shows are a little like riding public transportation. You learn a lot about the people around you through simple observance. At a show, you know the people who are fans, or who at least have a vague familiarity with the band by their swaying, mouthing of lyrics (or outright belting of song). On public transit you can see who has no concept of personal space, as well as the people who really truly do. It's all anthropological observation. The rituals. The people who dress up for a show, to a point where, standing there in the dark, it's obvious that they're cruising for a like-minded hipster indie laureate to meet, greet and potential sex after the band leaves and lights go up. People riding the bus, or a shuttle, or train settle into the aisle seat hoping that they will block any one sitting next to them, they will find walls and barriers to lean up against (I do this), and then they will grow visibly uncomfortable when a person sidles up and stands facing them, barking into their cell phone mere inches from the wall-leaner's face. Yeah, just this evening, I watched as a woman who was comfortably in a nook on the shuttle, grew frustrated by a man who put his bag at her feet and held a loud, repetitive phone conversation. Surely, as I do sometimes in such scenarios, she was questioning his understanding of personal space. On a near-empty bus. Or maybe I'm just projecting. This tangent has taken on a mind of its own, so I will step back and take a deep breath.

Last night's Girls show at the Bluebird fulfilled the show rituals aspect of the above paragraph. Some people seemed to be there to be seen. Even when the headliners came out and played a stellar show, with near pitch-perfect vocals and exceptional musicianship, there wasn't a whole lot of cheering, or even concerting "Woo!"ing. It was a fairly low-key situation. Yes, a Wednesday night, and yes, Girls is not one of the big ticket bands, and Bluebird is a small venue, but sometimes I guess I expect more from crowds than I should. Since Album came out last year, it has been one of the favorite "this is just fun to listen to" albums of my life. Loaded with all the youthful hope and heartbreak-isolation stuff that resonates with everyone, and Christopher Owens' vocals carefully sounding similar to Elvis Costello just adds icing. Girls is a smallish band from San Francisco, and for them to come out to Denver, to the "cold" and play a killer show (I mean stellar-killer: they were just brilliant) is a treat. Denver remains a fly-over state for a lot of great bands, so we need to appreciate the ones that come by. Seeing Girls live should become any fan's, however casual, priority. Even if you don't know them, it's just the perfect '60s style surf-rock, Beach Boys-infused, Costello-ian fun that you need. Not every band will be prolific, or inspiring, or even devastatingly emotional for everyone. Girls is a band that succeeds for me when not trying to do any of those things, and that's meant as high praise. Sincerely.

Opening for Girls, at least the second opener who I was lucky enough to see, was Magic Kids. A rag-tag group of kids who could've been high school pariahs for their fashion, and their general gangliness. I feel compelled to make an A-Team reference here. Magic Kids being the perfect team of guys you'd never expect to be as awesomely competent and dynamic as they are. And get this, I think they do things for non-model-type women sometimes. Beat that A-Team! Magic Kid's love for playing their music was instantly infectious. A sort of Buddy Holly, '50s, beach party rock band, they sang about love and some about loss, and a lot about meeting girls places and telling them how much they love them. The harmonies were wonderful, and watching as the singer and lead guitarist belted out lyrics while wearing wide, bright smiles was a great combination of hilarious and wonderful. They appreciate themselves ironically (as any good hipster strives to) and because they do they have a free pass on any sort of awkward, Muppety stage behavior. The lead singer even successfully ran his hands all over his crotch while singing, in a display that was most definitely not intended to be sexy, just fun and self-aware. Magic Kids don't have a disc out yet, but they do have a MySpace page, so I advise checking them out. You won't be disappointed.

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