What a difference a year makes: Dum Dum Girls in concert

A little less than a year after playing at DC9, Sub Pop all-stars Dum Dum Girls took the stage at the Black Cat. While the only new material the band released between then and now is the stellar He Gets Me High EP, 2011’s performance was head-and-shoulders above 2011’s.

(Photos courtesy Matt Dunn; from 2010 and 2011, respectively)

Fear not: the band’s trademark “blissed-out buzzsaw” is still firmly in place. Dum Dum Girls still look and sound like a time-shifted 60s girl group. But a year of performing as a unit has streamlined their set, tightened their harmonies, and enriched the band’s performance.

Last year’s show was so stoic and reserved that the band seemed uninterested in performing. There is definitely a greater sense of urgency this time around, even as the four piece maintains an air of (ironic?) detachment.

The development of the live show mirrors that of the band, from its impetus as Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred’s bedroom project to full-fledged touring outfit. Along with their Ramonesque monikers and stylized stagedress, the bandmates share “Dum Dum” tattoos on their fingers; they’ve clearly bought-in to the Dum Dum Girls concept.

On Sunday night, the band hit the touchstones of their early records (“Catholicked,” “Hey Sis”), standouts from I Will Be (“Jail La La,” “Everybody’s Out”), and their newest material, which samples from their entire palette. Off the EP, the rollicking surf-drums of “Wrong Feels Right” places it somewhere between “He Gets Me High” and “Take Care of My Baby.” The former is the musical sequel to “Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout,” and the latter is a lovelorn ballad that resembles the slow dance of “Rest of Our Lives.”

The highlight, judging by the crowd reaction, is their version of “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” a spot-on update of the Smith’s classic that surpasses their muted covers of the Stones’ “Play With Fire” and Sonny and Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go.”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/dum_dum_girls_light.mp3″ text=”Dum Dum Girls – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” dl=0]

With a music scene that constantly spits out one-and-done performers, we often forget the treat of watching a band develop over albums, concerts and years. The nostalgia of the Dum Dum Girls isn’t just focused on the music of the past, but on that timeless experience of seeing a band grow and making them your own.

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