CONCERT REVIEW: TV Girl at the Pabst Theater

  • Post Author
    by Music director
  • Post Date
    Mon Mar 04 2024

BY: Gilang Arifin

TV Girl is an indie hypno-pop group from San Diego, California known for their distinct soundscape that combines elements of pop and electronic music to create disturbingly catchy songs. Featuring old spoken word clips chopped and sampled into the foreground, reverb-heavy production, and hypnotic harmonies, TV Girl is a band with an unmistakably appealing production style. TV Girl exploded to the forefront of indie-pop in 2020, when songs like “Lover's Rock”, “Not Allowed”, and “Cigarettes Out the Window” blew up on platforms like TikTok. 

Following the release of their newest album, Grapes Upon the Vine, TV Girl took to a tour across the U.S., including Milwaukee's very own Pabst Theater. I first saw them back in 2021, at a sold out show in a small D.C. venue called Black Cat. The venue was dark and crowded, though the audience was disappointingly not very lively; a massive contrast to the concert in Milwaukee. Opened in 1895, The Pabst Theater bears all the makings of a great old-timey theater: a massive interior, carefully arranged rows of seats, ornate classical wall detailing, and an impressive balcony section for the mezzanine and gallery. Despite this, the stage itself was much more modernized, with a variety of different light and fog effects that added but never overshadowed the performance. I arrived at the opener, Monster Rally, playing away at a beautiful electric guitar and keyboard. Surrounding him was a mushroom lamp and several forms of foliage that only seemed fitting for the almost psychedelic tropical-pop he played. As with many crowds during the opening act, there was a lot of talking over the performance but the energy was still good. 

TV Girl came on an hour later, and the crowd burst into cheers as the lights dimmed. Their set design was minimalistic- a large light fixture in the shape of a stained-glass mural of their signature logo, the head of a short-haired girl, sat center stage behind lead vocalist Brad Petering. Throughout the concert, the fixture and its adjacent accent lights glowed and changed color to match the accompanying overhead lights, creating dazzling light shows. Often, the lights would change to hues that matched the current song's album cover; orange and red for songs off of French Exit, as well as shades of pink, blue, and purple for songs off of Who Really Cares. The regal setting combined with TV Girl's modern hypno-pop performance and made for a surreal experience that seemed to transcend time. Aside from visuals, TV Girl delivered an incredibly entertaining musical performance. I still have yet to be disappointed by Petering's smooth vocals and playful yet nonchalant stage presence, calmly waving his fingers as he sings the songs I can't help myself from belting out when I listen to them on my own. 

Clad in dark tea shades and a banana in the front pocket of his unbuttoned shirt (which he later took the time to eat on stage between songs), Petering made sure to deliver amusing stage banter in a vaguely deadpan voice between songs. Like an unskippable YouTube ad, he repeatedly made sure to encourage us to buy copies of the newest album in increasingly convoluted ways as he clutched a bottle of rosé. Petering even went on to make up a story about meeting a Make-A-Wish kid named Timmy who's only wish was for the audience to buy more copies of the band's newest album. To his right was Wyatt Harmon, ecstatically smacking away at the drum pad and keyboard he so masterfully controlled- a whimsical fervor that I rarely see at concerts. Watching him play, it was hard to imagine that Harmon didn't know how to play keyboard or sing when joining the group, as admitted in an interview with TN2 Magazine this March. Behind them was Jason Wyman on live drums, the amazing backup singers Keira and Maniya, and bass player Zoe Zeeman to accompany the band. 

The band's playfulness shone through in their performance for Not Allowed, where Petering used a beat pad to repeatedly delay the intro before its hook. Petering stood and waved his fingers teasingly as he looped the beginning just long enough to build the perfect amount of anticipation before the “You suck!” part of the beginning. A pretty genius way of adding some excitement to a performance of an already very popular song, if you ask me. Though I'm much more familiar with the songs from French Exit and Who Really Cares than Grapes Upon the Vine, I greatly enjoyed their performance of “I'll Be Faithful” from the latest album. Hearing the backing vocals live and so perfectly executed really ascended the performance far past any streaming experience, not to mention the light show that made the band feel larger than life. 

The concert did an impeccable job of capturing the “anti-gospel gospel” vibe of the album, with the 2 backing singers performing with the same passion of a large church choir. Admittedly, the performance was somewhat stifled by Petering's over-acknowledgment of the band's stardom due to viral pop hits and their largely teenaged audience. I remembered Petering saying similar things at the band's concert in D.C. back in 2021, and though it started a little funny, it became a bit drawn out as it continued throughout the night. When asked about his take on the “TikTok fans” and “OG fans” rivalry in a recent Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, Petering said “I don't care. What does it really matter how someone discovered something. Or even if they just like one or two songs from a band. I do feel like the chronically online fans simply don't know how to behave at concerts but its not really their fault. They're just, well frankly, dumb teenagers”. 

Overall, the concert was highly enjoyable. The music was spectacular, the band did a great job at keeping things entertaining between songs, and the crowd carried a lovely energy through the whole show that amplified the atmosphere. If given the chance to see TV Girl again, I would gladly take it.