It was a fairly average Tuesday night in the area surrounding O’Brien’s. The streets were empty. All was calm. Little did the residents of Allston know, their neck of the woods was to be transformed into a living hell (in the best way possible) by Death Valley Girls that very night.
Before the visiting L.A. band turned O’Brien’s into Satan’s lair, the night started off on a less demonic foot with Sunram and Alosi Den. Their sets filled O’Briens with droney, vibey, psych sounds, getting the crowd warmed up for Gymshorts.
Gymshorts delivered a set that can only be defined in one way: rock ‘n’ roll. It was loud, dirty, and in-your-face. Every member of Death Valley Girls was lined up in front of the stage, entranced in the clash and collision of drilling bass lines, riffs sharp enough to kill, and aggressive drum beats courtesy of TJ Freda, Andy Davis, and Chris Faulkner, respectively. Sarah Greenwell (guitar, vocals) let the spirit of punk possess her as she growled I just wanna be bad! as Gymshorts closed their set with “Hey Parents!”
Within the next 15 minutes, amps became tombstones, and the back corner of the stage became occupied by a massive Satan doll (named Waffles, mind you) that loomed over the drum kit. By the time the leather-clad, rune-covered Death Valley Girls took the stage, you were convinced you were in the underworld.
“Glow in the Dark,” the title track of Death Valley Girls’ most recent album, served as an introduction into the band’s apocalyptic, space-age sound. Bonnie Bloomgarden’s powerfully piercing vocals cut through the band’s heavy, dark music. It was a sound dynamic that allowed you to gawk at the fierceness of her vocals, while still being able to appreciate the simultaneous display of musical talent happening.
If you couldn’t tell that Death Valley Girls worshipped rock ‘n’ roll just by being in their presence, you would immediately catch on by experiencing their entire set. Songs like “Disco” captured the perkiness of rock in its earliest era. Meanwhile, “Death Valley Boogie” stripped the genre to its raw core. The stage presences of Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Larry Schemel (guitar), Kid (Laura Kelsey, drums), and Pickle (Nicole Smith, bass) seemed to combine the active vibrancy of Iggy Pop and the effortless cool of any early rock legend.
As the set started coming to a close, Bloomgarden was convinced that everyone had sold their soul to Satan. And if they hadn’t, they most certainly would by the show’s end. But who cares about souls, she questioned.
“All I care about is Gymshorts and Boston Hassle!” (Bloomgarden was apparently blown away by the opener and also very pleased with her interview).
With that, Death Valley Girls launched into their final songs. As you watched, you couldn’t help but believe that each member of the band sweat, cried, and bled rock ‘n’ roll. The rock spirit was overwhelmingly present on stage, and the crowd that stuck around until the night’s late end fed off it. Anyone there who wasn’t already devout most certainly became converts to the religion of rock ‘n’ roll after Death Valley Girls’ unforgettable show.