by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Sleater-Kinney have never been on top of my “must-listen-to” list. There’s just something harsh and forced about their music, an abrasiveness that utterly lacks melody. It’s tough to sing along to an S-K song unless it’s something mellow like “Modern Girl” off The Woods, which is not characteristic of the band’s usual sound.
Their new album, No Cities to Love, fits right in with the rest of their catalog — a bracing punk rock record loaded with shrill vocals, singing about what I do not know. The title track says it’s not the cities but the weather they love. The rest of the song, the verses, are cryptic: “Atomic tourist / A life in search of power / I found my test sight / I made a ritual of emptiness.” And so on. It’s not so much the words that matter as the energy, and S-K exuded it Friday night at The Slowdown in front of a sold out crowd who loved every minute of it.
The trio, joined by an extra guitarist, rolled right into their set with gusto, with guitarist/vocalist Corin Tucker taking the lead as she would throughout the night, spitting out vocals over the din. There is little doubt that she is the leader of this band, though Carrie Brownstein is the crowd favorite thanks to a brighter, less jagged voice and her notoriety as an actress in Portlandia. Brownstein is a real star among indie stars.
I spent a good part of their set trying to figure out where the bass was coming from, as no one was playing bass guitar. It turned out (I think) that Brownstein and Tucker were trading turns playing their bass strings, though I swear at times neither was playing bass.
Despite taking a few years off the road, the band played as if they’d never left after The Woods came out almost a decade ago. If there was any ring rust, it came early in the set when Tucker sounded like she was trying a bit too hard on vocals (as she does at times on the record). As the set rolled on the band loosened up and got into a groove, injecting more soul into the music.
Holding it all down was drummer Janet Weiss, mesmerizing behind the kit and further enforcing the old punk adage that you’re only as good as your drummer. That being the case, Sleater-Kinney remains one of the finer punk rock bands that emerged out of the ’90s. And while I still don’t care much for their records, after last Friday’s show I’ve grown a new appreciation for their live stuff, which sounds less stiff and more…human than what they’ve put down in the studio.
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While Sleater-Kinney was slaying it at The Slowdown, fellow Seattle-ite Damien Jurado was having less of a good time in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The acoustic folk artist berated the audience at Kalamazoo State Theater after they just wouldn’t shut up. According to this MLive report, during his opening set for Jason Isbell, Jurado was pushed over the edge.
“The best way for me to do my job is to not be distracted by your talking,” Jurado scolded. “If you want to talk there’s lots of room and people out there talking, but this is not the place to do it, okay?”
It goes on from there, peaking with “Laugh all you want man, seriously, but this is not funny. This is my job.” And, of course, the entire exchange was captured on video, which you can watch here. We’ve all been at shows where the crowd isn’t paying attention to what’s going on up on stage. I, for one, have to hand it to Jurado for telling them to shut up.
No doubt Omaha audiences are much more respectful than Kalamazoo’s, right? So if you’re headed to The Waiting Room tonight to see Jurado headline, take your chatter out to the sidewalk. No one wants to hear it, least of all Jurado, who is on the road supporting last year’s Secretly Canadian release Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun. Opening is Oquoa’s Max Holmquist. $15, 9 p.m.
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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.