Shy Girls’ Minimalist Electro R&B Silences Chatty Doug Fir

Shy Girls' Dan Vidmar. Image by Aubrey Gigandet.
Shy Girls’ Dan Vidmar. Image by Aubrey Gigandet.

By Thacher Schmid

The turning point of the sold-out Shy Girls show at Doug Fir Lounge on Jan. 25 came during the start of the next-to-last song, “What If I Can.”

“This is one of my favorite songs on the new album,” producer, songwriter and vocalist Dan Vidmar announced, shyly folding an arm across his belly as a syncopated, smoky drum loop and sly, spacious melody ramped up.

To that point, Vidmar had engaged the crowd with a combination of new and old tunes, but chatter increased as he and his backing trio performed several relatively unknown, slow-tempo songs from long-awaited, just-released debut album, Salt.

Then, like a rubber band slowly snapping, the crowd’s gaze came back. As keyboardist Akila Fields’ waves of synth crashed in, Vidmar’s shimmering, vulnerable vocals brought a churchy vibe into the room. Toward the end of the song, a monstrous, unified riff from saxophonist Noah Bernstein and guitarist Ingmar Carlson inspired vigorous head nodding and sashaying.

It was a hypnotic, heavily produced homecoming show for Vidmar, who now lives in Los Angeles. In a rare aside between songs, he recalled the moment a few years ago, living in a loft around the corner from Doug Fir, when his first single, “Under Attack,” “kind of launched my career.” The final song of the hourlong show, “Trivial Motion,” underlined the ways in which Vidmar’s new album owes a debt not just to minimalist R&B but to ’80s pop. Then, Vidmar let go of the layered production and elicited cries from the crowd in an encore duet with Akila Fields that highlighted Vidmar’s wondrous pipes.

Rapper the Last Artful, Dodgr opened the show with an energetic opening featuring four dancers and stage presence to burn. She performed “a couple of new joints” that highlighted her dynamic collaboration with producer Neill Von Tally, holding court through technical problems and winning over the crowd with authenticity, marvelous range and a rapid-fire flow. Her album, Bone Music, comes out Feb. 3.

This article was published in Willamette Week.