On Thursday night, I saw Dum Dum Girls at Mercury Lounge. The show was, in frontwoman Dee Dee’s words, “chaotic.” While that was pretty true, I enjoyed it. I’d been listening to their new album and have been a fan of theirs for a while. Hearing some of their older songs triggered memories of listening to their first singles and first album four years ago, in the winter of 2010. (Aside: writing “the winter of 2010” made me feel sad, because the year twenty-anything still seems like it should be in the future to me. Also, saying “the winter of 2010” isn’t as graceful as I’d like it to be.)
From the moment I heard “Jail La La,” the first single off of Dum Dum Girls’ first LP I Will Be, I was obsessed. It was girly and garage-y and I was just very into their whole aesthetic. (My taste is not that much different now.)
I put the song on a playlist that was meant to have the same sort of feel but I never got any further than adding two Twin Sister songs, one of which I intended on removing at a later point. I remember vividly putting the playlist on as I drove my younger brother Dayton, who was sixteen at the time, and one of his friends to a concert in Washington Heights. It was dark and sleeting and I didn’t feel very comfortable driving. I meant to change the music but I guess I was so distracted and used to listening to the same three songs over and over that I didn’t.
We parked and I entered the United Palace Theater with “Jail La La” still in my head. Many of my friends were at the same show and, hanging out with them in the lobby, I started getting some really bad vibes. Nothing more specific that that. Later on, my ex-boyfriend who I had been still…sort of seeing at the time showed up. He had asked me earlier if I was coming, which I took to mean that he wanted to see me. But when I talked to him, everything seemed off. I honestly didn’t put that together with how anxious talking to other friends and acquaintances had made me that evening, but I sat through the entire concert feeling very upset for no good reason. After the show, my friends were headed to an after party, which I hadn’t been invited. I assume now that was because I had my teenage brother with me and wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. But at the time, I assumed, based on no evidence other than a gut feeling, that nobody wanted me around. No one even said goodbye to me after the show. I drove home with my brother and his friend, who had really enjoyed themselves, playing the same playlist again on repeat, paranoia swirling inside me.
I was on edge for the next few weeks, until I finally found out in a very, um, unchill manner that my ex-boyfriend had started dating someone else, who at the time I knew on a superficial level. I had sensed that this might be the case after the night of the concert, but had told myself I was just being paranoid. It turned out that even though I was just being paranoid, one of my paranoid thoughts had been correct.
I went pretty crazy at that point. Like, four years later I look back and really see how crazy I acted. (My description of this time and its events is vague, I know, but I’m still afraid of publicly writing about this, even though I feel like I have gained a lot of perspective and don’t judge my past self.) However, the feelings I’d had at that concert made sense. He had shown up there with his new girlfriend, hadn’t told me about it yet, and everyone else was too afraid to say anything to me. I don’t mean to simplify anyone’s feelings or motivations, it’s just that that’s the short version of how I was able to rationalize my own feelings from that night, which had been so confusing to me earlier.
After that, it was hard for me to separate those feelings from the experience of listening to “Jail La La.” I bought the Dum Dum Girls record and found myself putting off listening to the whole thing. When I finally did get around to it, I didn’t have the same enthusiasm for that song as I had before. It brought things up that, for the time being, I wanted to put out of my mind. (It turned out that I did really like the whole album, which I listened to throughout the spring.)
I remembered all of this while I was at the show the other night. It made me realize how much everything has changed since then. And I think mostly, it made me realize how much I have changed since then.
Of course, Dum Dum Girls have changed too. I went back and listened to I Will Be this weekend. In comparison, their third and newest album, Too True is more sophisticated, less lo-fi. It makes sense in terms of the evolution of a band who has always had, in my mind, a very complete sound and look.
My favorite song from Too True is probably “Too True to Be Good.” You should listen to it.
And here is Dum Dum Girls playing their second single from the album, “Rimbaud Eyes,” on Letterman (the same day I saw them at Mercury Lounge):