October 17, 2002

Words and Guitar

In marked contrast to my last entry, where I noted (perhaps a bit smugly) how diligent I was in getting advance tickets to the Consonant/Shellac show, our quest to see Sleater-Kinney at Irving Plaza last night was another one of those not-terribly-well-planned showgoing attempts (see: Spoon @ Bowery last month). And unlike Spoon, this show had long since sold out.

But this story has a happy ending, as we were able to get a pair of tickets from a scalper (sigh) for what I suppose what not a completely unreasonable price given the circumstances. Even happier was when we handed our tickets to the taker at the door and they were found to be legit, at least according to the little ultraviolet light device they use to detect such things. Hallelujah!

While there had been a long line of people waiting to get in that wrapped around the block, it was still pretty empty when we got inside. So we waited for the first band to go on, the name of which I'd forgotten and hadn't recognized anyway from the show advertisement. Which is why my attention snapped from my conversation to the front of the club as soon as I heard a strong, sweet, instantly-recognizable voice coming from the woman onstage -- it was Mirah! I'd really enjoyed her set at the K Records showcase this past June, so this was a pleasant surprise indeed. And even though it was once again just her and her electric guitar (or just her, for a couple of a capella numbers), and this time in a far larger venue, her performance came across quite well.

Shortly after Mirah left the stage, it became clear that Sleater-Kinney weren't the only band most of the crowd had come to see, as the floor filled-up incredibly quickly in time for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' set. Energetic, stripped-down rock 'n' roll, but not really my cuppa tea and nothin' new. In fact, my show-going companion pretty much nailed it when he shrugged and said "Siouxsie & the Banshees." Actually, I'd say the Banshees filtered through Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. As I mentioned briefly in my review of their performance at the Siren Music Fest this past summer, I went to high school with Nick, the guitarist, so I can tell ya that the JSBEsque RAWK stylings are definitely post-HS. Cuz the music of his that I remember him or his girlfriend playing for me back then was definitely the product of (now former) Sad Goth Boy. (I poke fun knowing that tapes of my high school band will never, ever surface. Please god, no.)

Moving up to the balcony for Sleater-Kinney, we swapped the crush of the floor for a somewhat-obstructed view. But the visible bits of stage -- for me, the part occupied by Corin Tucker; for him, Janet Weiss -- and merciful absence of excess bodies were trade-offs I gladly accepted. Just before Sleater-Kinney came on, someone stepped up to the mic to encourage all the women to move forward to the front of the stage. Hey, I would have jumped on that had I been on the floor, esp. since my general lack of height is always an impediment to proper show-viewing.

The performance itself was an amazing, high-energy rush of sound, tunes new and old performed just as well by the band as they were received by the audience. I will confess right now that even though I've had many, many opportunities to see the band since their formation, this was in fact my first S-K show. (Heck, I even missed the chance to see Corin's previous band, Heavens to Betsy, though I used to play their record on my radio show all the time. Argh. The shows-missed self-flagellation will end now...)

There were plenty of highlights throughout, but I can pick one that was the absolute high point: when, one or two songs into the encore, out from the sound system came the insistent notes of a familiar guitar lick... and the band launched into a frenetic, fantastic version of "Dig Me Out" that set the entire front of the floor in motion, punctuated by shaking heads and upreached arms. Out with a bang!

Posted by nstop at October 17, 2002 06:08 PM


Hi, I just stumbled in here, and I wanted to tell you that I love your site! (And nothing makes a person feel good like a compliment from a complete stranger, right?) If I knew anything about HTML or web design, I'd want to do something like this. But, dammit, you beat me to it. Keep up the great work, though!

Oh, and I caught Sleater-Kinney in Boston the other night, and was glad to see somebody else raving about 'em......

Posted by: neal on October 18, 2002 05:25 PM

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