With Wild Flag, you could say it’s all about attitude and swagger if the music wasn’t so good. The four girls don’t necessarily look for hooks, although there are a few but they are rare, rather they are looking for adventure with numerous guitar solos, legs kicking in the air, and mean rocking riffs.
The El Rey theater was really packed for a Thursday night and Carrie Brownstein thanked us for being e there as there were about ‘a million shows happening in LA that night’! These women are super famous now, and some girls behind me were screaming ‘Carrie’ (isn’t she in this hip TV show Portlandia with SNL’s Fred Armisen?), and ‘Janet’,… Janet Weiss was in several indie bands, like Sleater-Kinney (with Carrie) and Quasi, and Conor's drummer of choice, whereas Mary Timony was in Helium and Autoclave, and Rebecca Cole played drums in The Minders, which can explain Wild Flag’s strong appeal for a demographic listening and watching certain types of bands and shows.
The female quartet is not particularly looking for familiarity or beaten paths, rather they explore, they yell, scream, howl and kick with a constant energy. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony were alternately taking the lead on vocals, completing each other, but also contrasting with radically different styles. Timony was all swag and feminine seduction, while Brownstein was all high-pitch aggressiveness and meanness. While pushing her Sleater-Kinney-esque shriek, she was nervously moving and bouncing at each riff as if she was receiving them as electric shocks, impersonating the raucous rage of the band.
If Carrie is probably the most famous one of the four, there is no real frontwoman as she shared the stage with Mary Timony, battling her legs apart with roaring guitars, affronting her, in the middle of the stage several times during the show, in front of Janet Weiss’ tireless and powerful drumming and Rebecca Cole’s harmonies at keyboard. During the heavy-distortion-wild-craziness of ‘Racehorse’, the two women were even holding their guitars high above their heads, like two badass and victorious warriors, translating in a move, without an ounce of pretentiousness, the raw power of music.
Their music is complex to describe, it is varied, it moves in many directions, and it never forgets the punk-rock mission it is on – or is it post-punk? There is an endless energy emerging from the songs, an efficacy appropriated by some all-mighty girl-power, usually reserved for testosterone-gland holders.
Some songs were fierce without neglecting the harmonies like their opener ‘Electric band’, other had memorable and bold guitar lines slowly building a fire like ‘Short Version’, other ones were wrapped in weirdness and honestly unclassifiable like ‘Glass Tambourine’, whereas other ones literally and sonically exploded on stage like ‘Boom’.
They played most of the songs of their self-titled album, as well as two new songs (according to the setlist), and disappeared briefly after ‘Romance’, their ‘only song about love’ as Carrie put it, but came back for an encore and two covers, The Ramones’ ‘Do You wanna Dance’ and Fugazi’s ‘Margin Walker’ which showcased a guitarless Carrie holding the mic in one hand, and dancing all the lyrics in a giant lamenting scream.
Something Came Over Me
Do You wanna Dance (Ramones' cover)
Margin Walker (Fugazi's cover)