Tuesday night I went to New York City to see Wild Flag. I've delayed my review of the show due to the weather. Really. We're expecting 3-5 inches of rain here today, which means my basement will have its own tidal flow if I don't prepare. So, I've been replacing broken pumps, moving the cats' beds and such to higher ground, and making other preparations. I am ridiculously exhausted, but I wanted to slip in this post before things get chaotic.
Okay. First--Wild Flag was opening for Bright Eyes. I know absolutely nothing about Bright Eyes, and I did not stay for their set, nor for Superchunk, who also played after Wild Flag. The show was at Radio City Music Hall. At first I was grateful for this, because I am getting to be an old lady and I like to sit, but quickly I realized this was not the best arrangement. You should not be forced to listen to Wild Flag sitting down; their music requires a crowd and a venue that I can only describe as "New York Sleater Kinney". Anyone who ever went to a New York Sleater Kinney show knows what I mean.
I'm not looking to compare Wild Flag to Sleater Kinney--they're not doing the same kind of thing. That said, Wild Flag really kicks ass. It's hard to put a label on their style--it's a bit punk/psychedelic/experimental, which is what you would expect given the band members. Most, if not all, members of the band are known for musical experimentation.
A writer from Brooklyn Vegan got to see them at the Rock Shop, and has some good clips of the band, which you can see here.
I could not find a setlist for this show, and because the band has no album, I can't identify all of the songs in order. I did find setlists for other shows, which probably consist of the same songs in a different order. You can look at the setlist for Brighton Hall here.
The only song I knew going in was "Glass Tambourine", which I put up a couple of blog posts back, streamed on NPR's site. One advantage of Radio City was the acoustics--it was amazing to hear the band without being too close to the speakers (a perennial problem of small venues). I thought they sounded pretty good when I heard the streamed song, but the live experience is different entirely. I haven't figured out exactly what it is--whether it's watching Janet Weiss play drums, or the interactions of Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony onstage, or just the music itself--there's something indescribable, but it's like having an ecstatic experience. The music just gets under your skin and takes over; and, like great sex, you find yourself wanting more once it's finished. Carrie seemed more comfortable onstage than she did in the past, even though she noted they were used to playing living-room sized places (or actual living rooms). You find yourself walking out with your jaw on the floor, and all you can think is "holy f**king sh*t. I think I've seen God."
Yes, they're really that good, which is something I did and didn't expect. I approached Wild Flag with the same trepidation I used to have with a new Sleater Kinney album--I was terrified that it would not be as awesome as I thought it would be given the band members, or given the last album. And of course, every time, I am amazed at how well-crafted all of the songs are, and how they affect me.
I left the venue after Wild Flag played its short 30-minute set. Nothing anyone could play after that could have topped it. And I find myself strangely unsatisfied by the thought of a 7" single coming out next month--I'm craving an album. I am hoping I won't have to wait too long.