The Virgins have an interesting history. Frontman Donald Cumming left home when he was only 15 years old to live on his own, acting and modeling to pay the bills or crashing with friends. Eventually, Cummings began writing music, and after distributing a demo of his songs to some friends, found some partners who liked the sound – and subsequently formed a band. They immediately recorded a five song EP, ‘The Virgins ’07′, which made it’s way around New York and into the attention of some very influential people. They were quickly signed by Atlantic Records – famously before the band’s line-up was completely set – and their entire EP was used as the soundtrack to an episode of Gossip Girl. And just like that, a band that had barely played live shows, let alone have a tour, became one of the most talked about bands in the country.

Based on the success of the EP, The Virgins released their self-titled debut album, and hit the road with major dates at SXSW and All Points West festivals. Their song ‘Rich Girls’ became a minor hit and cemented the band as a success. But then The Virgins disappeared. They retreated back to New York, and remained generally tight lipped during that long spell.

Well, the drought has finally been lifted, and Donald Cumming has returned to the New York City stage, this time with a slightly different line-up. The ‘Encore! Live Sessions’ at Le Baron is a new series of concerts featuring up and coming artists, giving them the opportunity showcase their new stuff. Every other Monday, the guys at ‘Encore! Live’ take over Le Baron, the red hot club that finally opened during Fashion Week after years of rumors. The tiny stage and venue make for an extremely intimate setting for a live show – it reminds you of those crazy stories people try to tell you about the time they saw Jerry Garcia playing at a bar or the time they saw The Rolling Stones play for 15 people before anyone knew Mick Jagger. Except, this place has a certain swag to it – the people are beautiful, the line is impenetrable, and it just has the feel of a place you want to be.

Show time was 9 o clock, but The Virgins took the stage at 10:30 – I wouldn’t have expected any less – this bands whole style screams of “I don’t give a fuck”. Cigarettes dangling from the mouths of the band were a constant theme, the lyrics sung seemingly without effort over the music being created by the band. It’s a very interesting, garage rock, rebellious attitude that fits there image to a tee.

The Virgins generally used this showcase to show off some new songs and it showed. For one, fans anticipating to hear all their favorite Gossip Girl tracks were instead introduced to songs they likely never heard before. There were also a few kinks that need to be worked out between adding new band members and new material — but that is to be expected. For the most part, the band’s new sound was warmly welcome. Compared to the grungy disco music from there first album, which was really meant to be club music, this band is almost unrecognizable. Their new songs borrow from the British rock styles of the 1960s. While the band didn’t completely ditch the danceable format of their earlier album, there were several ballads – Cumming took to the keys for a rendition of ‘Island Girl’, which was just released by the band on their bandcamp store.

The change in style reminds me of the transformation of the band Jet after their debut album. After scoring a mega hit with “Are You Gonna Be My GIrl?”, their next album debuted with what sounded like a Beatles clone in ‘Look What You’ve Done’. The Virgins coincidently opened for Jet on their first extended tour.

After finishing their set, the band returned for an encore of ‘One Week of Danger’, an upbeat danceable song from their first album. This sent most of the crowd home happy with a taste of The Virgins they know and love. Overall, the show was excellent – while The Virgins’ first album was fantastic, it is healthy to see a change in styles. Artists need to constantly evolve – what has doomed many New York City bands that have received endless amount of hype only to fizzle, is the lack of evolution – no one wants to hear the same album twice. What separates The Virgins from the pack, is that I now anticipate hearing the new direction the band takes, before I could ever get sick of their style.

Written by Justin Charles