Wild Flag with Eleanor Friedberger at The Paradise, Boston on Friday, October 14, 2011
There was a certain irony to the fact that the act booked to play the same club the following night as Wild Flag was The Indigo Girls, and I know that at least two people of the assembled LGBT contingency was going to both shows (the women in front of me were looking to buy tickets at the box office). Before the ‘Lilith’ term gets tossed about, just because there’s a lack of Y chromosomes doesn’t mean that an all-female ensemble is going to put on some acoustic-guitar snoozefest. The ladies of Wild Flag (two thirds of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss), the main force behind Helium (Mary Timony), and a Minder (Rebecca Cole)) have no inhibitions to smash their distortion pedals, flail wildly at the guitar strings, and just plain bring it. No wonder they’ve got a song called “Electric Band.”
And that’s what the capacity crowd came for. Leaving little doubt as to the game plan, the woozy charms of Timony’s “Black Tiles” slammed straight into Brownstein’s “Romance” and the race was on; the lyrics of “Romance” (We love the sound, the sound is what found us/Sound is the blood between me and you) accentuating the visibly strong bond between band and rabid audience. I must admit a certain ignorance towards Sleater-Kinney, and just a passing interest in Helium, but that’s about to change. The unbridled energy and sheer fun was infectious, with plenty of smiles exchanged between the band during songs, with Brownstein and Timony making use of their mobility to form random huddles and physical interactions throughout the set, occasionally throwing leg kicks. Aside from a short partnership more than a decade ago as The Spells
, it’s clear that Brownstein and Timony were made to play together, and this is the perfect match, their sweet and sour influences and singing styles creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts.
For a band touring on a single LP, there’s certainly not a surfeit of material to draw from and after playing the nearly entire record (albeit in a different order) and a couple of new songs (“Nothing” and “Winter Pair”), they closed it out with a simpatico reading of Television’s “See No Evil.” Of the roughly two hundred concerts I’ve seen this year, this was one of the best. Do what you can to see them.
Eleanor Friedberger is better known as the sister half of The Fiery Furnaces, but lately she’s branched out from working with brother Matt and focusing instead on doing it all herself. With a freshly recruited band of curly-haired men behind her (including members of MGMT and Be Your Own Pet), they survived a few false starts and got into a nice groove. It’s hard to say that Friedberger’s doing anything unique, but her fractured take on pop music has a mid-to-late 70s NYC feel to it; possibly that feeling is influenced by her Patti Smith-esque look, but the guitar figures and spindly lines of John Eatherly didn’t really sound like anything else that’s being played currently. Aside from a much too prominent kick drum sound in the mix, her set was a nice match to the more rough and tumble headliners.