by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Wild Flag may be the first super group whose former-band baggage is actually a disadvantage.
Without a doubt there likely wouldn’t have been the 150 or so people at The Waiting Room last night if not for the band’s famous pedigree. The average audience-member age was late-20s/early-30s, and consisted of people like me who grew up listening to Helium and Sleater-Kinney. But if those folks thought they were going to hear a medley of songs by those bands sandwiched between new material, they were in for a surprise (but not disappointment).
Wild Flag’s sound is wholly rooted in the now. The 4-piece has as much creative energy as any band of young upstarts currently touring a successful debut album. So it’s deceptive to go into a Wild Flag concert with a preconceived notion as to what you’re going to hear based on, say, Helium’s output. They don’t sound like Helium, however there’s no denying Mary Timony’s wonky vocal style, heard on more than half the material. Her quirky, swirling voice has all the swagger of a young Iggy Pop (but in a sparkling dress), countered by Carrie Brownstein’s more direct, straightforward vocals that come off like punk Chrissie Hynde. There’s nothing girly about the music, but when all four sing, it can conjure memories of The Go-Go’s.
Ten minutes in and I doubt anyone was interested in hearing any old S-K or Minders songs anyway. “Glass Tambourine,” a driving, almost tribal rocker played early in the set was a psychedelic, feedback-fueled head trip, with Timony playing her guitar above her head. Live, the 5+ minute song (on record) stretched out over 10, and no one wanted it to stop.
If Brownstein played the roll of sonic bedrock (with impressive high kicks), Timony was the demure rock star. Her simple guitar lines and solos broke though on every song. Musically, their style vacillates between garage, art punk and modern psychedelic. Through it all, there’s always something familiar that holds it together, though it’s never what you expect. For example, it’s impossible to listen to Timony’s guitar line in the middle of “Short Version” and not be reminded of the middle section of Deerhunter’s “Nothing Ever Happened.” Set highlight “Racehorse,” which came toward the end of the evening, went from a jagged riff rocker into blinding groove stretching forward on Rebecca Cole’s glowing keyboards and Janet Weiss’ seismic drums. Huge. Top-five? Probably. The band came out for a two-song encore that included a very loose-grooved version of “Beast of Burden” before calling it a night.
Opener YellowFever was a quirky guitar-and-drum duo that filled out its sound thanks to drummer Adam Jones also playing a synth/keyboard. Each song began with Jones punching out a rhythm along with a bass line on the keyboard (set to repeat) while guitarist vocalist Jennifer Moore proceeded to chop away at the bass strings of her ax. When Moore added her pretty chirp it became pure art rock. Think early punk B-52s meets Micachu. Fun stuff.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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