Wild Flag-New Beginnings, Old Punks


Carrie Brownstein of Wild Flag at the High Dive Seattle

There is something amazing about seeing something new. A sunrise, a baby’s first steps, the first snow–oh get over it. How about a band of awesome, talented musicians facing their audience and their own music for the first few times LIVE. Now we are talking. Very few people in the rooms at Seattle’s High Dive and Portland’s Doug Fir lounge new what to expect from Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole–possibly even the band. These were their third and fourth live shows as a band, and their first on stages bigger than drum risers. That was part of the energy/excitement (as opposed to buzz) that simply may not be there when they play at SXSW and (Pitchfork or Lolla) next year– the sensory perception of expectation. The feedback loop of newness-acceptance-confidence- running from performer to audience and back to performer and snowballing. How did they sound–really powerful and fun–how did they look (and sound) happy to be playing to and with each other and for fans that did not know the songs. Thanking the crowd for dancing to songs the band had only played a few times and the audience had not heard–even the covers. Let’s start with the covers–Dirty Water, Beast of Burden, She’s My Best Friend, and most incredibly a stage shattering Ask the Angels where Carrie shed her guitar (showing her trust in Mary Timony to handle the job) and channelled a gutteral Patti Smith and capped the revelation of the free Carrie movement by literally kicking out the jam to close the shows–tells you a lot of the group’s influences and interests (as might Carrie’s and Mary’s Spells cover of Can’t Explain).
Clearly, after a few years off, Carrie felt free to create and enjoy making music with and trusting friends–rewinding the clock to being “new” artists who set up their own equipment, play small halls, interact with the audience, and most importantly–have fun.
The original songs were predominately featured strong punk and roll riffs, not quite the Led Zeppelin fuzz of The Woods, but a hint of Thin Lizzy and Gang of Four chorus on their very catchy Romance and maybe (don’t shoot me) AC/DC riffs and guitar stances on “Racehorse”. But mostly, it was the combination of Carrie’s and Mary’s interchanging lead guitars over Janet’s expertly emphatic–but somehow in control drums and the pulsing keyboards of Rebecca, that ranged between the tense, driving guitars building up to and around aclangy keyboard riff and an ooh-aah chorus on Future Crimes to the psychedelia and shared harmony of Glass Tamborine –talk about a song sounding like its name.
But to be new, young and free, respect and learn from the past but don’t kowtow to it–kick ass and have fun. That’s what Wild Flag and music is all about.

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