When LA’s TV Girl crossed into South Carolina on Wednesday afternoon, it was like they had found the promised land of freely available pyrotechnics and reasonably priced petroleum products. Fireworks or not, TV Girl and We Roll Like Madmen put on quite a show last Wednesday at The Radio Room.
As Clemson-based EDM act We Roll Like Madmen, Jordan Young and Chris Tollack collaborate to produce songs that feature bedroom lyrics set to beats that seem to be crafted with dense and dark house parties in mind. (I would know. I had to kick them out of my living room once when the cops showed up.)
The crowd was fairly thin, so most people hung back for the first half of Madmen’s set. But then they played “Jellyfish.” It’s called “Jellyfish” because you’re supposed to dance like a jellyfish. I can’t say whether anyone had ever actually seen a jellyfish dance, but the handful who tried were pretty convincing.
Young and Tollack responded to the crowd’s energy with one of the more passionate performances I’ve seen from them. I could see and hear Young fighting his vocal limits to convey the weight of his lyrics over Tollack’s equally heavy beats. I felt just as emotionally spent as physically.
Following that exhausting performance, TV Girl proffered a welcome but not-too-drastic change of pace. For The Radio Room, a tiny dive bar known mostly for regional acts and a smoky atmosphere, the young group was a breath of fresh air.
They led off with “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now,” a catchy diatribe against the hang-up you’re still hung up on. The next song, “Girls Like Me,” was vocalist/synth player Trung Ngo’s transgendered lament on material beauty, sung from the perspective of maybe the girl he already sang about.
Following those two Ngo-led tunes, vocalist/bassist/sampler Brad Petering took the sound in a more “urban” direction on the low frequency track “Loud and Clear.” Petering and I talked afterwards about the tour and how the band got started.
Ngo and Petering, co-founders/de facto creative directors, started releasing music as TV Girl back in 2010. Since then, they have received positive attention from Pitchfork and put out a second EP and full-length mixtape. Earlier this year, they made a strategic move from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Along for the tour (and mentioned in the mixtape activity book) are a guitarist and a drummer who backed the bandleaders with surfy riffs and rhythms. Even during a few instrument-changes, everybody played their parts well.
Overall, I preferred songs where Ngo had the lead over Petering’s more hip-hop influenced tracks. Petering’s delivery had a bit of a dull edge, while Ngo sounded crisp, even through The Radio Room’s average sound system. I think the issue was that Petering’s lyrical style is simple and conversational, which requires an extra attention to melody that I didn’t hear.
At around 45 minutes, they capped off a short set with the title track from their second EP, “Benny and the Jetts.” It was a fittingly familiar conclusion for a band that has at least one fan (me) in the Greenville area.
TV Girl has a lot of potential, and I hope they continue to produce and tour and play music that incorporates so well the nostalgia this generation feels for our popular past.
I can assure you that David had a fantastic time on his birthday. Modern Man even showed up to play a surprise set after TV Girl. I heard everyone really did shoot off fireworks later that night. Too bad I don’t have anything to report about that. I had work in the morning.