Report: Wild Flag Live in D.C.

Prior to heading off to SXSW in Austin, the distaff supergroup of
Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole threw down at the
Black Cat in Washington, D.C., on March 10. Believe the hype – this will
be one of the most celebrated outfits of 2011.

 

By Logan K. Young

There’s a tautology that’s peculiar to rock: a supergroup is
deemed such when it’s composed of those whose music supra is also deemed
superb. Moreover, it might be a matter of which came first, as well — the
chicken of Ted Nugent…or the Damn Yankees egg? And while that might be a bit
too heady – not to mention nowhere near germane – for the ruff ‘n tumble world
of riot grrrls and the boys, like me, who love ‘em, for the four corners of
Wild Flag at least, their life began at conception.

Allow me, then, to run the voodoo down, Trouser
Press
-style. Aside from birthing that estrogen-heavy strain of Pacific Northwest rock, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss
use to play in Sleater-Kinney. Alas, they broke up in 2006. Weiss is behind the
kit, still, for bands like Quasi and Steve Malkmus’ Jicks, while Brownstein
blogs too infrequently for NPR. (I’m also told Carrie stars in some IFC sketch
show alongside that SNL Scientologist who broke sweet Peggy Olson’s
heart.) DC’s Mary Timony formed her own all-femme band, Autoclave, in the
summer of 1990. They, too, broke up (in ‘91, no less) and Timony went on to
lead Helium with Juliana Hatfield’s brother — classic, Gerard Cosloy-approved
indie rock. She later released some solo records, and only because I live in Washington now do I know
that her brand newest band, Soft Power, is the real deal. Of all the grrrls,
she’s definitely my fav. Least known is The Minders’ Rebecca Cole on keys.
According to the one-sheet from Merge, she and Weiss play together in The
Shadow Mortons. And while I hate to sound dismissive, much less a misogynist,
every professed “supergroup” has to have a Jack Blades, I suppose.

As a totality, though, proof of Wild Flag’s
super-ness has been hard to come by. After all, fiat alone does not a
supergroup make. At some point, ladies, we’ve got to see the sum eat her parts,
first-hand. So with their van already packed for Austin, the band parked it outside 14th Street, and
for once in the ballyhooed life of internet indie rock, the hype is to be
believed. [Amen – the band subsequently
tore it up in Austin
the following week and absolutely slayed the BLURT staff. – Ed.
]

 

For fans of Sleater-Kinney’s hyper-kinetic anthems and their
empowering refrains, Wild Flag no doubt sounded bluesier, psychedelic even. To
wit, the six-string histrionics near the end of “Glass Tambourine” – side one
of their only proper recording thus far – were rendered even grittier and more
obtuse live. And by dialing down the bludgeoningly overt feminism, it’s a more
subtle sound, unless “tambourine” is some sort of cipher for “ceiling.”  

Washington state has a long and storied kinship with my non-voting Washington, and while
it’s obvious that Brownstein is the frontwoman here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t
note that Timony was the people’s choice, also. Just like Sex and the City,
Carrie gets all the glory, but it’s Mary’s musicianship that truly anchors the
group. (I know, she’s a total Miranda.) Watching her hands tumble down the
fretboard during “Future Crimes,” I can’t imagine anyone else playing that riff
with such confidence and vigor. And when Brownstein did abdicate the mic, like
in the first verse of “Arabesque,” it became patently clear that Mary Timony is
no woman’s understudy. Lest I hate on Carrie or her gaudy gold-sequined top too
much, her hellfire delivery of Patti Smith and Ivan Krals’ “Ask the Angels” was
indeed a thing of beauty — a “wild, wild, wild, wild” encore, for sure.
  

Who knows? This could all be mere distraction for the
band’s individual members — an XX rock sabbatical, if you will. And if it’s
nothing more than a vanity band for Timony and Brownstein, Weiss and Cole,
color me smitten all the same. (Especially you, dear Mary!) Should Wild Flag
continue, however, by their stripes alone, some of the wounds left behind by fin
de siècle
riot grrrl may finally begin to heal. And that’s more than anyone
could ever say about Damn Yankees.

 

[Photo Credit: John Clark]

 

 

 

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