Although they've been gigging for five years, the recent crop of shows by Dog Party felt like a debut. When they first started playing live, right around the ripe old ages of 12 and 10, they unquestionably were little girls; the fact of the matter is, only the most miserly cretin would criticize little kids playing music. However, with the release of Lost Control Gwen and Lucy Giles are no longer "little girls" but rather, are young ladies. Therefore, their three shows in the bay area, which were in support of the release of Lost Control, saw them stepping up to the adult's batting plate. They nailed it.
The first show was as the tiny Crepe Place in Santa Cruz on August 9, 2013, supporting Slime Girls (none of whom are actual girls). Usually a crepe restaurant, the venue's front was cleared out for a gig the in the space a size of an average living room. It was mostly packed as the girls took the stage.
After telling a few quick jokes, the girls cracked into their set list proper. Focusing on their newer material, they merged classic three chord punk with youthful sprit and youthful fun. Right off the bat, it was clear that something was special. Both of the girls have fantastic ability, knowing that energetic, simple delivery usually wins the day. But despite that the music wasn't ornate, the way they locked together and mastered rhythm showed that for all their direct playing, there is deceptive skill in their craft.
Like many of the great duos, the girls played their voices off one another. Guitarist Gwen leans towards the sweeter, songbird-ish delivery. When she called out "come fly with me" on "Jetpack" there are remnants of the Shangri-Las, Belinda Carlisle and just a hint of Joey Ramone. She's able to portray a certain hopeful view without making it sound candy coated or artificial. Contrasting her is drummer Lucy, who is the vinegar to Gwen's sugar. On songs like "Box of Handkerchiefs," Lucy hits the skins like they are punching bags and snarls out in a modulating howl "I don't want to see your face!" There's Ari Up, Penelope Houston, and Eve Libertine in this delivery, but still, as with her sister, a certain wide-eyed optimism, which keeps the music kicking.
Here, the girls seemed mostly at ease. Between songs, they would crack jokes and take requests from the audience. Although the audience wasn't out of control, likely because the place was fairly packed, the girls were received like headliners.
On August 13, they played the famed Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, opening for Hard Girls (none of whom are actual girls), Jeff Rosenstock, and Sean Bonette. This show was the largest of three bay area shows and had, by far, the highest stage. The audience skewed older, too, clearly there for the headliners.
Still, when Dog Party started their set, the audience was attentive and in general, seemed to be pleasantly surprised by the girls' skill and their damn clever songs. However, because they're still progressing, they seemed a little lost on the larger stage and despite the fact that they had more space, seemed more glued to their spots. Likewise, for some reason, the sound on their performance seemed to be a little too low, especially compared to the other three acts.
Perhaps they were a little nervous, but when they actually did play they sounded great, perfectly matching rawness with talent, so that their music sounded truthful, but also delivered with purpose. Interestingly, they engaged in almost no banter, especially compared to their wordy jousts from the Santa Cruz show, which echoed the charming sibling battle of Tegan and Sara. These girls have the skill, talent, and charisma to own the bigger stage, they just need to go for it.
The third and final bay area show was at the world famous X-Bar in Cupertino (which is actually a bowling alley bar) on August 17. This show was packed with the youth, who were there to see Dog Party, along with other popular up and comers Leer, Summer Vacation, as well as those South Bay veterans Shinobu (none of whom are actually girls).
This crowd, which skewed younger than those at the other two shows, was the most enthusiastic to all acts, pogoing and even moshing a little bit at Dog Party's fierce update on the classic punk banger. Similar to the Santa Cruz show, the girls were more forceful in commanding the stage. The set was similar to the San Francisco show, but the renditions seemed to be a little more energetic. Likewise, both Lucy and Gwen had more oomph in their vocal deliveries. When Gwen called out during "Jetpack" she sounded angelic. When Lucy hissed on "Box of Handkerchiefs," she was scary.
Perhaps because this crowd was the noisiest and most rambunctious out of all, the girls kept their banter to a minimum, plowing through their set. It showed the two avenues that they can take, each of which they're able to pull off successfully. On one hand, they can do the Ramones-style performance and just blast through song after song after song, or they can do the T&S style show, and win over the audience with their jabs at each other on stage. Frankly, because they are both so funny, maybe the second is the better route to take. These girls have fierce songs, but they have personalities, too.
Dog Party are on an upswing, no doubt, due to their sheer songwriting talent and live skill. You can't fake either of those. Let's hope they keep moving and don't get too comfortable with the smaller mid-size show, as so many punk bands are wont to do. These girls can make a real go at this rock and roll thing, they just have let themselves know that they've got the goods to compete with the best.