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Surf Sound, Sequined Singers Get Melded by Girls: NYC Music

Christopher Owens of the indie rock band Girls, at Terminal 5 in New York. Girls, from San Francisco, go from sunny pop sounds to heavy rock n' roll. Photographer: Cory Schwartz via Bloomberg

Flowers festooned the stage at Terminal 5 on Jan. 14, from the microphone stands to the keyboards and drums. This was not a Metallica night.

It was the biggest New York show yet for the five-piece band Girls, who were joined by three backup singers in sequined dresses.

Frontman and founder Christopher Owens wore an unbuttoned flannel shirt over a denim skirt. Style issues faded with the opening guitar lick and drum beat of “Alex.”

The blissful West Coast surf vibe of “Honey Bunny” followed with guitar conjuring a dreamy state. Material from the excellent 2011 sophomore release, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” continued as an organ intro made way for the somber and toned-down “My Ma.”

Owens grew up in the Children of God cult, broke away in his teens and found himself in his mid-20s in San Francisco, where he formed Girls with bassist Chet “JR” White. They released their debut album, “Album,” in 2009, one of the year’s best records. The equally impressive EP “Broken Dreams Club” quickly followed in 2010.

They performed the EP’s pop gem “Heartbreaker,” and then Owens’s hand chopped his guitar strings for the debut album’s “Laura.” White bounced around the stage in his leather jacket and the audience sang along.

‘Lust for Life’

For a band that melds musical styles across generations, the doo-wop feel of “Love Like a River” was no surprise. The back-up vocalists provided “ooohs” and “aaahs” as the audience swayed in mellow-land and sang the final words, “My love is like a river.” The theme of yearning for love continued on the brief but very antsy “Lust for Life.” Clapping along was a must for this one.

Then came the night’s heaviest moment. The sequined singers asked, “New York, are you ready? ... Make some noise!!!” The blistering rock of “Die” took over in an onslaught of distortion, drums colliding and ripping slide guitar.

The stage lights quickly faded to black as the opening notes to “Vomit” rang out. It was the longest song of the night and got us ready for the summer feel of “Magic.” Bouncy keys and more slide work was all this little ditty needed. The set came to an end on the bluesy “Darling,” followed by applause and smiles for the chameleon California sounds of the boys in Girls.

Bjork With ‘Biophilia’

February brings the ever so eclectic Bjork with her latest album, “Biophilia.” She is performing in the round, accompanied by a 24-piece female Icelandic choir, visuals from artist Max Weisel, and custom-made instruments. Shows at the Queens New York Hall of Science are: Feb. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18; at Manhattan’s Roseland Ballroom: Feb. 22, 25, 28 and March 2.

Axl Rose’s latest edition of Guns N’ Roses comes to: Roseland Ballroom on Feb. 10, Terminal 5 on Feb. 12 and Webster Hall on Feb. 15. Will Axl take the stage on time? Who knows?

Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in February. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets.

Feb. 1
Thundercat/Deathrow Tull at S.O.B’s
Feb. 2
The Big Sleep/Ex Cops at Knitting Factory
Feb. 3
Thurston Moore at Maxwell’s (SO)
Feb. 4
Leroy Justice at Brooklyn Bowl
Feb. 5
Nicolas Jarr at MoMA PS1
Feb. 6
The Darkness at Irving Plaza
Feb. 7
Dum Dum Girls/Widowspeak at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb. 8
Primus at Music Hall of Williamsburg (SO)
Feb. 9
Tune-Yards at the Allen Room
Feb. 10
Zambri at Cameo Gallery
Feb. 11
The Kills/JEFF The Brotherhood at Terminal 5 (SO)
Feb. 12
James Blake (DJ Set) at Le Poisson Rouge
Feb. 13
Tibet House Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall
Feb. 14
Richard Thompson at City Winery
Feb. 15
Marketa Irglova at Joe’s Pub (SO)
Feb. 16
Slow Club/Air Waves at Bell House
Feb. 17
Other Lives at Bowery Ballroom
Feb. 18
Zola Jesus/Liturgy/Talk Normal at Webster Hall
Feb. 19
DJ Krush at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb. 20
Saul Williams at Maxwell’s
Feb. 21
Frankie Rose at Knitting Factory
Feb. 22
Flogging Molly/Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears at Hammerstein
Feb. 23
Prince Rama/Gary War at Glasslands Gallery
Feb. 24
Heartless Bastards/Hacienda at Webster Hall
Feb. 25
The Twilight Sad at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb. 26
Sharon Van Etten at Bowery Ballroom
Feb. 27
Marc Ribot at Iridium
Feb. 28
Fort Lean/Team Spirit/Stepdad at Santos Party House
Feb. 29
Craig Finn at Mercury Lounge (SO)

(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

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