On Saturday night, 3,000 fans filed into the cavernous, cement cube that is New York’s Terminal 5 venue for a sold-out show from two of indie-rock’s most un-Googleable new bands: Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Jersey act Real Estate was up first, leisurely warming up the crowd with a set that was enthusiastic, if less than energetic. Working their way though a selection of languid guitar-pop numbers from their two LPs, they looked slightly out of place. You got the feeling that they’d be more comfortable playing to empty barstools than to a crowd of 3,000.
Headliners Girls, by way of contrast, brought to bear a stage show that was nothing if not Terminal 5-sized. Employing a five-piece band, three backup singers and more than 20 bouquets of fresh flowers onstage, the band made their ambitions clear from the start. As it turns out, they had the sound to match: fleshing out their wounded love songs with jangly guitars, driving rhythms and flourishes of organ, Girls found common ground between ’50s pop classicism and indie-pop’s proclivity for the confessional. Clad in a denim skirt and red flannel shirt, with his stringy blonde hair dyed bright green, frontman Christopher Owens looked the part of vulnerable outsider — squint and you’d think you were looking at a reincarnated Kurt Cobain, gender-bending and all. And yet, even this obvious homage was absorbed seamlessly into Girls’ patchwork aesthetic, a testament to the band’s ability to synthesize their influences into something that feels very much their own.