It feels like every review of anything Sleater-Kinney needs to have a two paragraph article explaining the history of Riot Grrl, the music scene of the Pacific Northwest, and whatever else the fans of Portlandia with few-to-no toes dipped in the tides of punk rock need Cliff Notes for.
That said, it’s not a bad thing that an amazing group of artists with a great feminist and sex positive message are experiencing a surge in their fan base; my only trepidation is onslaught of insincerity that usually follows along with trend-bros. For every person I saw who literally lost their shit hearing “Words and Guitars” or “Jumpers” live for the first time in almost a decade, there was another person who didn’t realize there would be no laughs.
I wouldn’t say that Sleater-Kinney is humorless but, as cliche´as it sounds, Corin, Janet and Carrie came to rock and do little else. This was not a reunion show. This was a tour in support of new material with little more fanfare than any other show. There was little to no banter, minus a small word on health issues at the start of the encore. There was no reminiscing, or stories about being rock stars, comedians, or even parents. Last night was show for music lovers, and it was easy for a culture-thief to feel like they didn’t belong there.
Oh, and I am taking the time to say this for a reason–I must have heard a dozen people shit-talk one of the best bands I have ever seen perform in my life. I was personally insulted to hear a stranger say “they’re not that good live” on the line to get my coat.
Sleater-Kinney play their instruments the way construction workers tear down a building. They’re surprisingly complex and methodical, yet dangerous and explosive. Watching Carrie and Corin tango with their guitars and words was downright intimidating. Have you ever seen anyone lift their guitar over their head to solo while wearing shoulder-pads? It was like a deleted scene from Mommy Dearest. And Janet Weiss is a powerful fucking drummer. The intricacies of Sleater-Kinney songs really become apparent under the flashing lights of live show.
And the opener, Lizzo, an MC and alternative hip hop artist from Michigan was amazing, too. Her flow was chaotic and fierce, and her songs were relevant and entertaining. In fact, Lizzo a lot of hip hop artists wouldn’t have even bothered to do. Her DJ\hype-woman accented songs without leaving them unbalanced, and their drummer did things that didn’t seem humanly possible with only two arms. Lizzo had Terminal 5 turn off all the lights, and ask the audience light up the room with their cellphones. Oddly enough, it worked really, really well. You could even hear the music a little bit differently with the colorful strobes subdued.
Also, Lizzo tossed cookies into the audience. How fucking cool is that?
In the end, I don’t want to shame the audience. I think $40 is a perfectly reasonable price for the show I went to. Sure, you could have seen Sleater-Kinney in a venue half the size for half the price only a decade ago, but isn’t it better that this music has been so exposed to new fans that the demand has gone up? I don’t know. I’m not ever sure if I have a point to calling out all of the lazy spectators, armchair punks, ticket scalpers, the boring and the banal writers who still feel the need to emphasize that Sleater-Kinney is a band made consisting of women. For fucks sake, of course it’s important. But it’s more important that they’re amazing musicians. They’re a great band that just happens to consist of great women. And of course they’re all beautiful, but don’t objectify them.
I don’t know where I am going with this. All I know is I had way more fun than Fred Armisen last night.