Two well-established facts: Sleater-Kinney is a kick-ass band and the Sound Academy is a terrible venue. Now that those two details are out of the way, I have to make this hefty statement: Sleater-Kinney is such a kick-ass live band that I actually forgot that the Sound Academy is a terrible venue during their show. Yes, really.
The venue choice wasn’t going to stop me from seeing this band. Hell no. I wanted to see them that much. They’re a band I’ve loved since my early 20s, were formative in my education of feminist pop culture and nurtured the beginnings of my affection for the Pacific Northwest. And, I must also emphasize this one detail: they’re a band that broke up/went on hiatus in 2006 (you can never really know when “hiatuses” really mean break-ups!) before I had a chance to even see them. I still recall that sinking heartbreak when I found out, thinking I’d never get to see them play live.
Late last year, when Sub Pop announced they would be releasing S-K’s entire discography on vinyl and packaged together in a special boxset, I was pretty stoked. But the bigger and even better announcement was to come. Not only was S-K back together and releasing a brand new album, THE BAND WOULD BE TOURING. Dreams do come true!
The entire show was a face-melting dream come true. To be in the presence of Corin Tucker’s blistering vocals, Carrie Brownstein’s guitar agility and Janet Weiss’ impossibly effortless and impeccable drumming. Pure. Magic. The set list was a balance of songs from their new album, No Cities To Love and choice picks from their five previous albums (no songs from their first two records; they have eight in total in their discography). I thought I was going to burst during “Youth Decay” (one of my absolute favourite S-K songs). “Sympathy” followed by “Entertain” followed by “Jumper” (the last three songs in the set before the encore) were almost too much to handle (in a good way).
When the trio, plus touring band member Katie Harkin and opener Lizzo with her crew emerged for the encore set, Tucker voiced the band’s support for Planned Parenthood and continuing support of women’s reproductive rights. How can I love this band even more? I’m not sure if words can even express it. Long live Sleater-Kinney; forever shall they reign my heart.
I stumbled upon Spain in my formative years in the 90s and I was very glad I did. Featuring the smooth strength of Charles Hayden’s vocals and simple jazzy arrangements, Spain’s sound was a great contrast to the buffet of britpop I had on my regular rotation. The track Nobody Has To Know is still one of my favourite tracks to this day.
The past year saw Spain team up with Canada’s own Dine Alone Record to deliver the new album Sargent Place. I have only recently got my hands on the record (thanks, Dine Alone!) and am excited to see how it blends with the older material. Luckily, they are playing in Austin again. I was elated to see them at SXSW two years ago and this time around, I’m equally excited to see them once again showcase their music in Austin (and not at 1:30 am).
Check them out at Bungalow from 8:00 to 8:40 pm on Wednesday March 18.
There was a lot going on at Lincoln Hall on Friday night. I counted:
- 4 fur coats
- 3 white guys with dreads
- 2 crowd surfers
- 1 count of side boob
- 1 guy who managed to get onstage with a pair of red undies on his head
I couldn’t say for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say those numbers are probably pretty standard for a Growlers show – it was fascinating, weird and amazing in equal parts.
The night started with BRONCHO (well the night actually started with a DJ who I missed, so let’s just say it started with BRONCHO). The indie rockers from Norman, Oklahoma (who are fresh off their tour with Billy Idol – a dynamite pairing, I still can’t believe I missed it) played mainly from their 2014 release Just Enough Hip to be Woman, wrapping up with their addictive and infectious “Class Historian.” The band sounded spot on to their album, with their fuzzy, guitar driven rock warming the crowd up nicely for the Growlers and that distinctive stutter on “Class Historian” getting the audience especially amped up.
The Growlers took to the stage next in two of the four fur coats being sported at Lincoln Hall that night. Lead singer Brooks Neilsen was looking cozy in a little black mid waist number that he eventually shed to get down onstage later in the show. The band immediately launched into the set with their distinctive ‘beach goth’ sound coming through loud and clear in the small space. The hazy jangle pop/psychadelic rock with Neilsen’s almost Bob Dylan-esque nasal drawl overlaying it was exactly what the crowd came to hear and they went wild for it – that was the point when the tenacious young man with the underwear on his head made it onstage. I’ve never seen crowd surfing at Lincoln Hall, and right off the bat I wouldn’t expect this show to be the one to break that rule, but being there it kind of made sense. The band has five full length albums (including the fantastic Chinese Fountain released in 2014) and with a lot of their songs (especially the earlier ones) clocking in at about 2 minutes, the band was able to run through an impressive amount of tracks. It was especially fun watching Neilsen do his things onstage – his go-to dance move is a sort of combination of the robot and a 1960s twist that’s really endearing.
The second half of the set was heavier on the hits, with the band playing “One Million Lovers,” “Chinese Fountain,” “Someday,” and “Good Advice” (which holds the oh-so-true lyrics “there’s nothing as depressing as good advice /nobody wants to hear how to live their life”). The band possessed a lot of qualities I appreciated (fashion, talent, whimsy) but the best was their honesty: “We’re going to take a tinkle, then we’re going to come back onstage and play a couple more songs” said Neilsen as they wrapped up the set. Yup. No ‘will they? won’t they? are we clapping loud enough?’ anxiety over an encore. The band has to pee then they’re coming back. Nobody likes games – the Growlers get it and you gotta love ‘em for it.
Whenever I hear that a band comes from Gainesville, Florida, my initial reaction is that they must be a No Idea Records style punk band. After all, that seems to be the bulk of that city’s musical exports. That and Tom Petty. As it turns out, Hundred Waters have proven that there’s more to Gainesville than all that with their mellow electronic sound. The band released The Moon Rang Like A Bell (Remixed) earlier this month and have been making a bit of a name for themselves as of late with a recent appearance on Letterman, a tour with Interpol (that was interrupted by a snowstorm for a few days) and a song of theirs being used in a Superbowl commercial – you know, the one in which their music combined with a certain cola beverage inspires people to be nicer to each other online.
In concert, the band doesn’t exactly reimagine their tracks as full on club bangers, but there was perhaps a little more heft to it when performed live, a little extra energy put into the songs. Paul Giese and Trayer Tryon were kind of rocking out on the synths and the light show helped to amp things up a bit. Furthermore, a note to all electro based bands: a live drummer always makes things more impressive. Hundred Waters proves this rule.
Of course, the main attraction was singer Nicole Miglis, who has quite the voice – powerful yet ethereal. One of the highlights of their set was the aforementioned Superbowl commercial song, “Show Me Love,” which she performed in a stripped down, piano based format. While their music may not actually have the power to magically make us nicer, on this night it certainly had the audience feeling pretty good.