Playing live is no big feat for a band like Vivian Girls. The real challenges come in transpiring their raucous, one-take energy into recordings. But an element of on-purpose carelessness in their first two albums (the self-titled debut and 2009’s Everything Goes Wrong) has won them a cult status in the UK and overseas and they’ve stayed true to their guns.
To see Vivian Girls in a live setting for the first time can only bring excitement; you expect everything the albums bring but with the intensity gone tenfold. On the flipside, there’s support Veronica Falls; building up a solidly advancing reputation through the core of the live circuit, with very few recordings to uphold a local buzz that’s brewing. Part of their appeal comes from being made up of former members of defunct but accomplished acts The Royal We and Sexy Kids.
The Freebutt crowd treats them like a joint headliner; packing out the small-capacity venue a good hour and a half before the main entertainment ensues. Most-accessed recording Found Love In A Graveyard, played penultimately, stands out, bringing forth an all-consuming blend of male and female vocals, each soaked in reverb but rarely drowning out one another. The vocals are a consistence, alongside bare-knuckle guitars and equally raw drum patterns – they master an alternative beach party sound like not many others can just now.
As Vivian Girls commence, they are notably tighter and more assured that their support. But that’s a given when inexperienced faces do battle with a band that’s been touring (with their current, drummer-replacing line-up) for a solid year. The crowd does little in terms of bouncing off the tightly-enclosing walls of the Freebutt, but this gives the band an opportunity to debut three new songs, at least two of which are noticeably drawn out when compared to material on the band’s first two records. (The longest song on the self-titled album was no more than three-and-a-half minutes long.)
As the set gathers momentum, more pacey and perhaps more widely adored numbers make their way into the set list; Tell The World in particular gets the biggest “bop” of the evening, whilst I Have NoFun shows the band at their most worked-up stage.
But perplexingly, the audience do not so much as nod their heads in appreciation. Rapturous applause following each song cancels out any idea that Vivian Girls aren’t impressing, but for this suitable setting, it seems wrong to have such a static response to such jarring garage punk.