I try to stay relatively aware of a band's standing, especially if I'm going to see them live. However, sometimes I'm not even close to the ballpark. Case in point: the Virgins last night at Schubas. I thought they were just another indie rock band from New York that bloggers loved for a week. Had I known that they were ex-models, featured on "Gossip Girl", and making appearances at Charlotte Russe, I might not have been shocked by the audience. Let's just say there was a lot of unnecessary squealing.
At least they've got some good tunes. While I'm sure their marketing team was expecting Strokes-like hoopla, their slick debut album doesn't quite warrant it. (Though, in today's era of recognition undermining talent, maybe that doesn't matter.) It's patchy; a handful of very good songs mixed in with the typical filler that'd be Cribs outtakes in another world. But those few that showcase innovation have it in spades. And live, those songs were far heavier and less glossy than on the record. Gone were the synths and in were another guitar (manned by an Eric Lindros lookalike) and a ton of thump. "Rich Girls" and "Private Affair" highlighted the night around the midway point with the extra grit that's been a staple of New York indie rock this decade. Singer Donald Cumming seemed amazed that people had actually heard of his band, even though they were in Chicago at least twice last year. He danced somewhat awkwardly while killing time during solos, but generally appeared rather jovial. He pretends to be coolly indifferent, even when it's obvious he cares a great deal.
When your only release is tapped at a half-hour, your live shows tend to not be too long. Even dropping a cover of INXS' "Devil Inside" had them on and off stage within 40 minutes. For about half of that time, they were excellent. If they can harness that potential and spread it among a few more songs, good things are in store for them.