From the MoSS? Pit: Sleater-Kinney (Or: What I should’ve said to Carrie Brownstein when I had the chance)

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

 

Last weekend, I went to St. Louis to see Sleater-Kinney. Got a hotel room at the Moonrise, right next door the Pageant, where the show would take place in about four hours. Went to grab a beer in the hotel bar. Since it was just after 5 p.m., the bar had just opened, so there were about 10 people in the joint.

And in walks Carrie Brownstein.

My buddy Dub is saying, “well, go get your damn picture already, dumbass.” I said no. Didn’t want to bother her. Even when she got her drink and walked RIGHT PAST ME SIX INCHES AWAY (I mean, it wasn’t like she was 50 feet across the room), I didn’t tap her on the arm and say, “hey, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your music.” I let her sit and enjoy a drink with her friends before a gig. That’s what I assumed she’d want.

Yeah, I’ve regretted it for three days now. I should have said this …

Wait, let’s come back to that.

One of my favorite things about music is when you like a band – maybe you don’t love them yet, but you know they’re good – and then you go see them for the first time and they absolutely blow your friggin’ doors off. It’s like hearing them again for the first time.

SlowdownThat’s what it was like when I saw Sleater-Kinney in Omaha two months ago.

I’d been a fan since the late ’90s, introduced to them by MoSS?’s own Mr. Chris, himself just coming out of his stint as college radio DJ. Working late and rocking out one night at our post-college entry-level newspaper jobs, Chris slid over a copy of Dig Me Out and said “put this on.” You gotta remember, it was a dark time musically, and being trapped in central Iowa in the years before the internet truly grabbed hold, you still had to find your music organically. I had just graduated from Iowa, so the cool alternative bands weren’t as readily accessible anymore once I left my safe musical cocoon of a college town. And unfortunately in central Iowa at that time, all you had were butt-rock FM stations and the popular music dominating MTV had shifted toward Britney Spears, boy bands, and Limp Bizkit.

Also, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world is a girl with a guitar. It’s almost become a running joke. I think there’s nothing sexier. I loved the Go-Go’s and the Bangles when I was a kid. Joan Jett. Lita Ford … imagine my surprise when I realized those two were actually in a fucking BAND together at one point. Score. Love.

So when I heard Sleater-Kinney? Let’s just say I liked them a real lot.

But I never got to see them until Omaha. Missed them altogether before 2006. Never really had a chance the first time around. So when reunion tour dates were announced? I just bought four tickets. Didn’t ask anyone. I hadn’t even heard No Cities to Love yet, either. I just figured that this is one of the ’90s bands I had never gotten to see. Time to fix that. I certainly wasn’t geared up to be floored.

Well …

Corin Tucker getting into it

Corin Tucker getting into it

Everything about that show was perfect. The venue, a club called Slowdown, was sold out, but it wasn’t too crowded. Hit the floor with Chris and our friends Michelle and Jim and set up in front of where we knew Corin Tucker would be standing (of course, I was gonna stand in front of Corin Tucker).

Then they hit the stage. Wow.

That place just sounded phenomenal from where I was standing. Can’t recommend it enough in the future (check it out … Slowdown). The setlist was on point, too, with a heavy dose of the new album (which is perfectly fine when your new album immediately vaults into the “best album in your catalog” conversation upon release). But they didn’t forget to play “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” or yes, “Dig Me Out,” either. I can still see Chris bouncing up and down, singing “Turn it On” just like he would have when we first met in 1997.

But it was the band themselves that sticks with me. The ladies harmonizing perfectly – Carrie’s voice a little more girly, with Corin’s killer staccato, equally elegant yet perfectly harsh. The staggering riffs and sheer musicianship. I mean, I played drums until I was 15 when I inexplicably quit. Maybe my biggest regret in life. And if I’d stuck with it, I might be HALF as good as Janet Weiss. And let’s not forget the showmanship – love those high kicks, Carrie Brownstein!

So like I said – you like a band a lot, then you see them live and they blow your friggin’ doors off. Then you LOVE them. These days, Sleater-Kinney is pretty much my favorite band. And they aren’t just girls with guitars. Fuck that. They’re the best rock band on tour in America right now. Go see them. Like, right now.

Sleater-KInney at The Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

Sleater-Kinney at the Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

 

As soon as I saw they were playing in St. Louis, I wanted to go again. Always heard good things about the Pageant. Plus, one of my oldest friends who lived in the Lou was soon to be moving to Brooklyn. Might not have a chance to go visit again, so I shot her a text and said Sleater-Kinney was playing at the Pageant on April 24.

She simply answered, “I would be super into that.” That was all I needed. Bought four tickets without asking for permission. Luckily she could go.

Last weekend was more about socializing, catching up with old friends. But I’m sure Lisa would tell you that once the band started, I ignored everybody. I remember vividly telling Lisa’s husband that if the ladies were in good voice that night, we were in for a treat. They were. And this time, I got to hear “The Fox” and “One More Hour.” And I NEVER get tired of hearing that riff in “Jumpers” … you know, the one right after the second chorus? Killer.

S-K vinyl & setlistI also got to stock up on the memorabilia I missed out on the first time: you know … autographed vinyl, tour poster, even got the setlist I missed out on the first time (but not without annoying the shit out of the sound booth guy. Sorry dude, but I won’t apologize and besides, I wasn’t being THAT annoying).

But the thing I think I’ll always remember is having the chance to talk to Carrie Brownstein and not taking it. In addition to just telling her how much I love her music, I might have told her this something like this:

My buddy Dub has a 9-year-old daughter. She just started playing the violin. And like most 9-year-olds, she’s already getting a little bored with it. Being the guy that I’ve been since I was her age, when I was obsessed with Kiss records and early MTV, I’m praying that she stays with it (like I didn’t with the drums and now regret), that she gets inspired to play … although I must confess, when I first heard she had chosen the violin, I asked Dub, “if she’s gonna play strings, why didn’t you steer her toward cello? Because then, she can eventually pick up a bass guitar?” What a wonderful parent I’d be!

Rock goddess

Carrie Brownstein, rock goddess

Anyway, my first thought was this: I wish Sleater-Kinney was playing in Des Moines that night, not Omaha or St. Louis. Because I totally would have tried to talk Dub into letting me take his 9-year-old daughter to see Sleater-Kinney as her first concert. Because seeing these three powerful women on stage – who have become the best rock band in America – might inspire her. And as she gets a little older, she might have gained the skill set to put down her fiddle and pick up an electric guitar. And then she can be Carrie Brownstein.

That’s what I would’ve said to Carrie Brownstein if I had another chance.

Also, forget inspiration for a second – I’m just pretty sure a 9-year-old girl that’s as up-and-coming cool as my buddy’s daughter would eat up “Little Babies” and “Oh!” and “Modern Girl” with a spoon.

Fuck it, where’s my phone? I’m Facetiming her right now and telling her to get on YouTube …

 

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments here at Music or Space Shuttle? Have your say on our Facebook page. Yell at us on Twitter.

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I have pretend girlfriends, and they are hot

sleigh bellsI’d like to apologize for omitting “Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells from the February 2012 Music or Space Shuttle? mix tape (which is still fucking awesome; listen to the whole 10-song extravaganza at bit.ly/AqO7Ou).

Here’s the thing: it was a calculated move. I didn’t want the song to dwarf the other nine inclusions on the mix tape; I wanted to devote an entire post to singing its praises…or more specifically, praising the video.

Alexis Krauss staring at me with her big-saucer eyes! Those shorts! Those jeans! (Even if they were stolen from Joe Elliott’s 1988 wardrobe!) The right amount of leg visible under that bathrobe! Those cheerleading moves! That spiky jacket! Alternating between her cool sunglasses and those sexy eyes! That longing look as the song reaches its conclusion! Did I mention those shorts?! That lucky deck chair!

Madeline Follin[Madeline Follin of Cults enters the room]

Madeline: What the heck is going on here?

Chris: Oh, hi, Madeline Follin, my rock ‘n’ roll girlfriend.

Madeline: Why is Alexis Krauss on your computer screen?

Chris: Um, I was just mentioning to the adoring Music or Space Shuttle? readership that I think this video is kinda sorta cool. I mean, it’s no “Abducted,” but it’s not bad—

Madeline: What’s so great about this video?

Chris: Derek Miller’s In Utero shirt is pretty cool. That mustard toss was pretty epic. His John Bender-esque fist pump at the end is pretty awesome.

Madeline (frowning): You’re dumping me, aren’t you?

Chris: Um, well, yes.

Madeline: Go outside.

Chris: [sigh] Great tune.

Madeline: No, get the fuck out of here.

Chris: Oh.

And so another rock ‘n’ roll relationship ends. Madeline Follin, who last summer stood just a couple feet away from me as she performed before a rapturous crowd in St. Louis, finds herself kicked to the curb in favor of another raven-haired vixen. Madeline’s got company; I’ve loved me some rock women over the years. Some have been mega-popular; some are girl-next-door types. For example…

Donna A (Brett Anderson)Donna A of the Donnas

When was this?: early 2000s

Initial appeal?: liked the Ramones-style songs in the beginning; liked her look around Get Skintight

Real encounters?: Well, sorta. When they played Gabe’s in Iowa City in 2002 or something like that, my buddy Sam and I were hanging out in back during the opener, having a brew, when Donna R (Sam’s obsession) and Donna F came by and started playing Trivia Whiz. Sam kept yelling out the answers, which may or may not have annoyed the two Donnas. So Sam did the chivalrous thing and gave them $2 worth of quarters; that way he could keep yelling out answers/flirting with Donna R with a clean conscience. At some point in this display of cerebral excellence, Donna A and Donna C came by. I went to say “hi” to Donna A and managed to get out “Durrr-ahhhh-hey!” It was magical.

How did it end?: Once the Donnas became less like the Ramones and more like butt-rock, I was done with Donna.

Janet WeissJanet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney/Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

When was this?: mid- to late 1990s

Initial appeal?: She reminded me of Maura Tierney (what? I liked NewsRadio…)

Real encounters?: None…I never saw Sleater-Kinney live, nor did I see Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks during her tenure as timekeeper. I did have some college classes with a girl who looked a lot like Janet Weiss and played the drums. She was kinda cool. (And of course I was petrified to have anything to do with her other than bum smokes from her after class now and again.)

How did it end?: That girl from Portlandia seemed jealous.

D'Arcy WretzkyD’Arcy Wretzky of the Smashing Pumpkins

When was this?: early- to mid-1990s

Initial appeal?: A blonde, too-cool-for-school girl who was a member of one of my greatest musical obsessions…yeah, this was a no-brainer.

Real encounters?: Not really. Saw them twice in 1994; got close to the stage the first time. I remember one of my friends throwing a hotel-sized bar of soap at D’Arcy. His intent was that she would catch it/pick it up and use it as a pick, but realized the millisecond after it left his hand that she might take it as a statement of insult regarding her body odor. (No, I haven’t had a real encounter, but wanted to share the soap story.)

How did it end?: The Pumpkins started to suck after (during?) Mellon Collie, and perhaps I foresaw this image.

Gloria EstefanGloria Estefan

When was this?: mid- to late 1980s

Initial appeal?: What, you haven’t seen the video for “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”?

Real encounters?: I was, like, 12—that would have been awkward. And I didn’t really want to have to meet the Miami Sound Machine.

How did it end?: As it turned out, the rhythm did not get me. (And I started listening to heavy metal, and, aside from an obligatory liking for Lita Ford and the ladies of Vixen, became asexual for a while.)

Madonna in the early daysMadonna

When was this?: mid 1980s

Initial appeal?: the song “Burning Up”; the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”

Real encounters?: Back then I think I saw many a teenage girl trying to look like her (and failing miserably). I also lived vicariously through that boy in the “Open Your Heart” video—does that count?

How did it end?: Who says it did? She still looks great.

If you have any quirky rock ‘n’ roll loves, tell me all about them in the comments. (Ladies, feel free to chime in, too. Perhaps you can ask my better half about her Jimi Westbrook thing.)