Forget everything you know about Sleater-Kinney and “Portlandia.” Disregard Helium, The Minders, The Spells, everything. This review is not about the greatness of these projects; how they were the stepping stones that led to Wild Flag’s inception (a history lesson for a different article). This story is about one night at a rock club in Chicago—four women, one stage, a venue, and the magic that was created there.
“SOLD OUT,” the marquee of the Metro stated subtly in the corner. Indeed, the crowd stood shoulder-to-shoulder, packing the main floor and lining the upper balconies from the onset. Amber Papini, lead singer of Hospitality, emerged solo to tune her guitar, her presence eliciting a meek stirring of the audience. When the Brooklyn-based quartet took the stage to play their whimsical indie-pop, a few stray head nods speckled the mass. Though playing a very sound set in terms of musicianship, the stagnation of showmanship from the band called for nothing more. Papini’s vocals echoed honest and unfabricated, but still seemed lost in translation to a crowd clearly saving themselves for the main act.
The conservation paid off. With no light show, no banners, no frills, the ignition was unquestionable when Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole, and Janet Weiss took the stage. Timony’s vocals rippled effortlessly as the crowd became one swaying, bopping mass. Wild Flag, a band known for their playful, satirical music videos made it very clear from the first note that their talent was no joking matter.
Though suffering from a cold, Brownstein looked in top form, playing off of Timony as they met mid stage for a mirrored guitar rock-out, clearly enjoying playing together as much as performing in general.
Swagger is clearly a state of mind, as they prowled, banged, and lunged around in a manner that seemed to betray their quirky demeanor. During “Glass Tambourine,” the band delved into a rock-deity persona, featuring an elaborate, psychedelic breakdown that would have rivaled any classic rock act. A funkadelic interpretation of “Racehorse” was fantastic. At one point, Brownstein stood triumphantly, guitar aloft, cord clenched in teeth, a presence in her own right as Timony wailed, Weiss pounded, and Cole shook.
Closing the show with inspiring covers of The Beach Boys “Do You Wanna Dance?” and Fugazi’s “Margin Walker,” Carrie’s ironic sentiments from earlier seemed to echo the bands performance itself: “That’s what we thought…Chicago: cute.”