Friday, January 15, 2010


A Giant Dog
Emo's, 1/10

My bandmate and life-mate Anna C. is usually a silent partner in this undertaking, but as she always pays for gas, I figure she deserves a word in edgewise from time to time. A Giant Dog were a band we both really loved during Free Week but I think for different reasons. Rather than listing our differences at length I'll let Anna speak for herself:
I’ve been Westy’s sidekick throughout Free Week. Every other night or so, we’ve walked through the January-cold Red River district see these bands with extremely weird names play at the dives. Squidbucket impressed me, Amplified Heat made me want to dance, The Midgetmen made me fall asleep in my beer cup. Since I get off work at 9 and usually have to get to bed by 1:30 for work in the morning, I expect good, energizing music when I go out. A night spent on my feet listening to frat boys rip off the Pixies just makes me feel tired.
I was recovering from this live-music overload when Westy suggested I accompany him to A Giant Dog on Sunday night. I looked them up on Myspace. “They’ve got a chick singer!” The 30-second samples revealed a not-entirely unique post-punk band, with brassy front-lady vocals uncommon to the genre. A photo of the singer in a hot purple bra sealed the deal. “I’ll go!”
A Giant Dog played the outdoor stage at Emo’s. I immediately recognized the band’s local following: enthusiastic, beery young scenesters congregated before the stage and around the heat lamps. They hollered their approval as three young men shouldered their instruments, a fourth took his place at the drum stool, and the young woman left off carousing with audience members to take the mic. Waving a tall can of Pabst at us, she shimmied in a full-length black leotard and shook her red hair. She grinned and hollered, “I love being in my early to mid-twenties!” Man, those boys were kind of cute, but she was hot.
The band laid down their riffs. At first I had A Giant Dog’s style pegged as standard pop-punk/post-punk, the kind of stuff one hears on modern rock radio (and MTV, before they gave up music and started specializing in reality shows.) The two guitarists played blocky riffs in unison a lot of the time, and did not seem particularly skilled. The drummer, although he demonstrated a variety of rhythmic patterns capable of rallying a crowd, was not exceptional. However, the crowd at Emo’s loved them. Girls and guys in the front row shook gleefully, and even typically stoic types tapped their Converses in time.
Westy and I agree that variety within the bounds of pop-punk style is part of the band’s success as a live act. One song had a rollicking gospel beat (shades of early Gossip) and a “Hallelujah!” refrain. Others used a bar or two of syncopation in the beat. The last song was a slow steamy blues number, which at first I thought was a cover of “Venus in Furs” by the Velvet Underground. The singer brought girls up from the audience to gyrate onstage. A few boys joined them, and by the end of the show the stage reseambled a wild dance party.
A Giant Dog demonstrate that bands need not be extremely talented at their instruments to rock out and rally an audience. All one really needs is musical competence to play songs that don’t all sound exactly alike, and enough charisma to win the audience’s attention (and possibly libido.)
I couldn't have said it better myself, at least not with as few words. I will say that I think Anna underestimates the skill of the band's bassist, who is quite active and clever, and when their songs have two distinct guitar parts (too few of them do) they're trickier than they may at first appear. A Giant Dog play at Beerland tonight with The Gospel Truth, Bad Lovers, and Shapes Have Fangs.

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