It’s been a little over a year since I saw Agent Ribbons play, for the first and only time, opening for the Dead Hensons at Old Ironsides. When they had finished their set, I was left with the satisfied feeling that one gets after seeing a very promising band at the beginning. Unfortunately, that summed up what I knew about the band. Shows came and went and I twiddled my thumbs, barely registered their passing until on Monday I finally got the gumption to see them. I even braved the echo chamber that is the Press Club, wary of the fact that I’ve been near deaf for days after going to punk shows there.
Agent Ribbons, of course, is nothing like punk. Their collection of love songs is charming, pleasantly full of sass and embodies a whimsy more along the lines of LA’s the Ditty Bops, though without the signature vocal harmonies and less complex songs. However, the lyrics are intricate and clever; paired with the music, the songs bring to mind the some Anne of Green Gables universe where troubles are something that can be kissed away. Considering that Agent Ribbons boasts a mere two musicians, drummer Lauren Hess and singer/guitarist Natalie Gordon who play without a backing band, they’re also remarkably complete. “Birds and Bees,” a fifties throwback ballad, is filled in on the chorus with a quickly strummed guitar and Lauren’s tom playing keeping time until the music simplifies to the next verse to give attention to the lyrics.
Natalie is the more visible of the two, partially for her hair: cherry red curls that don’t so much fall to her chin as extend from the sides of her head. More striking is her stage persona, her confidant carriage as she stands in front of an audience. Her presence is strong and assured, yet lively and open. There is a constant swishing about her, during the openers and setting up on stage she moved constantly to music. But when she plays, it’s given focus. Constant movement turns to dancing, a performance to show the audience exactly how much she enjoys playing. Halfway through the set she had to pause to remove her denim jumper whose straps had been twisting with her movement. “I’m not trying to be sexy,” she excused herself. “It’s just that this thing is driving me crazy.” She finished the show in a bright striped shirt and stockings. Hair splashed in her face as she sang, eyes closed, squeaking out the high notes to add a beguiling innocence to the whole affair. And all this was done through a cold.
The set list was standard Agent Ribbons. The ragtime-y “Chelsea, Let’s Go Join the Circus” was played, “Birds and Bees” and “The Boy with the Wooden Lips.” It also included two new songs “The Wolf” from their latest seven inch and an unnamed vocal opener Natalie swirled her way through. New songs would come, Natalie assured us, as soon as they weren’t “Shitty-assed pieces of crap.” They’ve got a good start.