January 13th, 2011 5:33 pm | by MICHAEL MANNHEIMER Music | Posted In: Local Cut, Live Cuts

Live Review: Wild Flag & Ramona Falls, Wednesday, Jan. 12 at Bunk Bar

Wild FlagLooking back at the LocalCut archives, I realize that I haven't written a proper off-the-cuff live review in almost two years. But this morning, while laboring through a glut of PR emails and music listings, a funny thing happened: I couldn't stop thinking about the show I saw last night. Crazy for a music writer, I know, but that's just the power Carrie Brownstein holds over me when she's playing guitar. So here I present a series of thoughts on the Wild Flag show (I missed the band's first Portland appearance at Doug Fir), with the style totally cribbed from The Village Voice's Sound of the City blog. Sue me.

Better Than: Any show you will ever see at a tiny bar that primarily focuses on sandwiches.

Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss should always be in a band together. Seriously, the interplay between the duo is on some Magic Johnson and James Worthy level shit; even when one of them messed up a part or played too fast (which happened a few times last night, though it was more charming than annoying) they still managed to bash out one of the more memorable sets of music I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't seen Brownstein and Weiss onstage together since Sleater-Kinney's last show in 2006, but the chemistry is still there: loose, sporadic, and oftentimes crushing, Wild Flag's music is a natural progression from The Woods, owing more to classic rock than wiry punk rock.

For Brownstein, Wild Flag is almost the inverse of her role in Sleater-Kinney: instead of singing the sweet parts like on most S-K songs, she inherits the Corin Tucker role, hollering and shouting into her mic while Mary Timony sings the hook. She's clearly embracing her role playing in a band again, and her wry stage banter (including a hilarious bit wondering if Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Daddy" is a love song from Christine McVie to her, um, dad) offset any onstage technical problems. Brownstein and Timony traded off on lead vocals, and though the sugar rush of "Future Crimes" is clearly the best Sleater-Kinney song written in the last five years, Wild Flag is not the same band with different players. Timony, as I noted on Twitter, is a really underrated guitar player, and she played with a passion, hopping around the stage and twice swinging the guitar over her head ala Stephen Malkmus. Her songs tended to be less conventional, but no less thrilling. When both guitar players turned up their amps and blazed through the plodding, epic "Racehorse," my first thought wasn't Sleater-Kinney's 11 minute dirge "Let's Call it Love" but more like a crazy combination of Zeppelin, Can and the Raincoats. Yeah, it was rad.

Ramona Falls was a late addition to the bill after Drew Grow's nasty car accident forced his band to cancel, and it was nice to see Brent Knopf playing music and looking happy for a change. Knopf's close friend Cheri MacNeil, of the South African band Dear Reader, is in town working on her next record, and her backing harmonies on half the set lent a light air to Ramona Falls' songs, which tend to be a little heavier than Menomena's best tunes. Also, it's a little weird to see Paul Alcott playing with the band, as he's Knopf's replacement in Menomena. At least everyone is getting along!

Critical Bias: Can someone tell the Bunk Bar soundperson that the awful, screeching feedback between (and sometimes during) songs wasn't part of the set?

Random Tweet: "Mary is finger-tapping like she's Marnie Stern."

Best moment: When Brownstein climbed atop Weiss' kick drum during the feedback-y finale of "Racehorse."

Crappy iPhone photo by Michael Mannheimer
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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