Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Wild Flag Plays Bowery Ballroom (Photos)

Wild Flag: Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, Carrie Brownstein (not visible: Janet Weiss on drums).
The CMJ Music Marathon kicked off at Noon yesterday, but for me it began at about 9:30 p.m. when Eleanor Friedberger took the stage at Bowery Ballroom. She and her band played a fine set of catchy tunes, a good warm-up for the main event, Wild Flag.

I've long been a fan of Sleater-Kinney and of Mary Timony's various musical efforts (Helium and her own band), so I already liked the songs on their self-titled debut album—which sound like, well, a blend of S-K and Helium. The good news is that Wild Flag has all the energy and excitement that made Sleater-Kinney one of my all-time favorite acts to see live (not surprising, since Wild Flag features two members of S-K).

Eleanor Friedberger at Bowery Ballroom last night.

Eleanor Friedberger and band.

Mary Timony, with Janet Weiss in background.

Carrie Brownstein in a more restrained moment.
 Carrie Brownstein jumped all over the stage as in her S-K days, with her now-familiar windmill guitar flourishes and leg kicks. Her Sleater-Kinney bandmate, drummer Janet Weiss, was as always notable for her solid, powerful playing. I'd never seen Mary Timony live before, but she matched Brownstein for guitar chops and energy, though in a less flamboyant style.

One of the downsides of seeing a brand-new band on its first tour is that it doesn't have a large catalog of its own songs to play. Wild Flag played most if not all of its debut album, including extended versions of "Glass Tambourine" and of "Racehorse" (which ended the regular set). The band chose covers of two '70s punk classics for its encore: Television's "See No Evil" and Patti Smith's "Ask the Angels."

It's an odd coincidence perhaps that Wild Flag is staging its first full-fledged tour during CMJ this year, and a year ago the third member of Sleater-Kinney, Corin Tucker, made her first tour with her new band at last year's CMJ.

Having played three shows in the NYC area in four days (Bell House, Maxwell's, and now Bowery Ballroom),  Wild Flag continues its inaugural tour in Europe. It will return to tour the U.S. in spring 2012. (See the latest Wild Flag tour schedule.)

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