Dressy Bessy

Alex Romanelli
Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy

City: San Francisco
Venue: Café du Nord
Date: 2002-03-08
S E T    L I S T
That's Why
Hangout Wonderful
Super Everything
Live to Tell All
If You Should Try to Kiss Her
Just Being Me
Big to Do
Maybe Laughter
Jenny Come On
Oh Mi Amour
There's a Girl
Flower Jargon
Extra-ordinary -- ENCORE --
Carry On
Big Vacation
Sugar Sugar Kandy Pop When Dressy Bessy recently toured Europe, a trusted friend of mine saw all three gigs they played in London. I know Dressy Bessy's music. They play cute sugary sweet pop treats that are just as likely to melt your heart as melt in your hand. Candy is good, candy is fun. But too much is sickly sweet and eventually nauseating. I've had to be careful not to ruin their fantastic debut album Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons by not playing it once too often and creating a cavity in my record collection. But if my friend could stomach them three times and still get high from that fuzzy pop buzz, I decided I really needed to investigate further. On record, Dressy Bessy are reminiscent of the sorely missed Velocity Girl, all bouncy female lead vocals and delightful pop harmonies. Think Phil Spector girl groups but without the wall of sound production. Behind their songs' sugary coating, is a warm fuzzy guitar sound, similar to Apples In Stereo. It is therefore no surprise to learn that Apples' guitarist John Hill moonlights in the band. Dressy Bessy are in fact yet another band loosely connected to the Elephant 6 collective. For those in the know, this signifies a hallmark of 1960s psych-pop influenced indie goodness. Live, the Denver-based quartet present themselves as a slightly different proposition, although no less appealing for it. Rather than rehash their recorded pop perfection, the band instead presents a harder edge, which ultimately adds an extra depth to the music. Gone are the girly harmonies spilling over every song making fey indie boys weak at the knees. Instead, vocalist/guitarist Tammy Ealom takes the lion's share of vocals throughout the night without backup. For good measure, the few songs they did play from the debut album see drummer Darren Albert take on backing vocals, and these songs were met with appreciative cheers from the audience, keen to hear some of those catchy vocal melodies. And its not that the band's pure pop manifesto is missing from the stage, just that it manifests itself differently, in almost unexpected ways. Ealom and Hill provide a nice crunchy guitar sound. Big bubbling bass lines are more dominant than on record, making the band sound edgier, heavier even. This tasty mix of crunch and bounce combines to get the audience bopping along and pretty soon Hill's trademark grin beams forth, a smile so infectious that it's impossible for anyone present not to be won over by the band. Dressy Bessy never quite manage to outstay their welcome because just when you think you have the band down, they do something quite unexpected. Whether it is an unexpected chord change or a subtly unpredictably lyrical couplet, the band are good enough to always keep the audience on its toes. A good example is the show's opener number, "That's Why" from their recent second album, Sound Go Round. Tonight, coming from Dressy Bessy, it sounds almost anti-pop, far more angular than I thought them capable. The second song, "Hangout Wonderful" sees them kick off a great '60s drum beat and veer back towards more familiar territory. The mix between attitude and affection in the bands music makes them so compelling, keeping them from being merely another shiny happy pop band. The band are definitely more versatile musicians than their records suggest, exhibiting on stage a wider scope than I would have given them credit for based purely on the records. A pop perfection yes, but still a very singular sound. On record, they're the perfect candy, an instant sugar high. Live, the band are more lemon drop than sugar sweet. A steady acerbic fizz instead of instant gratification, and no less compelling because of it. Dressy Bessy surprisingly show themselves to be a slow burn, and a deeply satisfying one at that.





Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.


Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".


Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?


London Indie-Poppers the Motive Impress on "You" (premiere)

Southwest London's the Motive concoct catchy, indie-pop earworms with breezy melodies, jangly guitars, and hooky riffs, as on their latest single "You".


Vigdis Hjorth's 'Long Live the Post Horn!' Breathes Life into Bureaucratic Anxiety

Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader.


Konqistador and HanHan Team for Darkwave Hip-Hop on "Visaya"

Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit, Konqistador team with Toronto hip-hopper HanHan for "Visaya", a song that blends darkwave and rap into an incendiary combination.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.