wildflag-3.jpg
Laura Musselman
Wild Flag's Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein.
Wild Flag

Neumos

Friday, Nov. 11

Combining the leaders of two of the most compelling '90s

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Wild Flag Unleash a Tornado of Awesome on a Sold-Out Crowd, Friday at Neumos

wildflag-3.jpg
Laura Musselman
Wild Flag's Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein.
Wild Flag

Neumos

Friday, Nov. 11

Combining the leaders of two of the most compelling '90s guitar bands with two of the most distinctive voices from that era, you're bound to get a kick-ass rock show. Which is exactly what Wild Flag delivered Friday at Neumos. Composed of two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney and members of Helium and The Minders, much ink has been spilled over the fact that Wild Flag is all women. This still seems to prove endlessly fascinating (so much so that journalist Jessica Hopper recently brought up the old chestnut "Fellow music journos: It's time to start asking dudes that you interview 'So, what's it like being a man in a band?'" on Twitter). We can't seem to escape the mindset that there's something significant in and of itself in that fact. But Wild Flag isn't a great female rock band. The truth is it wouldn't matter if they were four dudes, three dudes and a lady, or two goldfish and two armadillos. They're simply a great rock band, and they proved it by unleashing a tornado of awesome on the sold-out crowd that won't soon be forgotten.

In the year-and-change they've been around, Wild Flag has earned a reputation as a killer live act, and the show they delivered Friday was no exception. Guitarist Carrie Brownstein may not like to hear the band designated a super group, but there's a definite perk to enlisting veterans-- they know what they're doing. Plus, you can't deny the chemistry the four share on stage, which Brownstein said is crucial to the existence of the group. In their dueling guitars and high kicks, they were clearly enjoying themselves, and although the crowd was too packed in to dance, it was clear they appreciated the enthusiasm.

It's a funny time we live in when you can make '90s-inflected guitar rock, dress like a throwback to that era, and seem contemporary, but Wild Flag does just that. Their music, while drawing on their influences and previous bands, has enough of a twist to sound refreshing. You won't find any laptops here, just intricate guitar lines ranging from delicate to heavy, burbles of analog keys, and interwoven vocal parts. Brownstein and Mary Timony traded vocal duties every few songs, and while their style of singing is different, the songs fit together seamlessly. Brownstein's ragged scream at times reached otherworldly intensity (a departure from the relatively laid-back confines of the band's self-titled album), while Timony's husky, lilting voice and distinctive cadence stayed true to her past projects. As a huge Helium fan, it was magical to see her on stage for the first time, even though she didn't talk at all.

Yes, in a development which may not surprise Portlandia fans, only Brownstein interacted with the audience, relating an anecdote about her personal training fearing she will pull a hamstring doing high kicks ("You know what that's called? A reality check.") and crowning the audience "better than Portland." The rest of the band spoke through their instruments, and several people in the audience who had been to their Seattle debut last year at the High Dive commented that the band has really gelled since then. Their jamming on "Glass Tambourine" made them the rare band you actually wish you could hang out with during their practice. They also played two new songs, "Winter Pair" and "Nothing" (the latter of which you can hear on their recent Sound Opinions appearance), and two covers in the encore: Brownstein tackled vocal duties on The Ramones' "Judy is a Punk," while Timony handled Television's "See No Evil." All in all, a night of professionalism and showmanship that ought to satiate even the most die-hard fan.

The crowd: I had expected the crowd to be majority women (my friend did attend with her gender studies professors, after all) but in reality it was a mix of genders and ages. The one commonality: A lot of hardcore S-K fans who spoke of seeing them multiple times in the past decade.

Overheard: "Janet Weiss is the best drummer of all time, regardless of gender. She's better than John Bonham," said a fifty-something guy in glasses and a trucker hat with a fanatical gleam in his eye.

 
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