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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From the MoSS? Pit: The Avett Brothers

fabulous fox theatre

The Fab Fox before the show.

I thought I’d be writing this post in early 2012, seeing as the Avett Brothers were going to play a show in Iowa City around that time. Since shows at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge rarely sold out, I waited and waited and waited to buy my ticket and then when I finally thought seriously about getting my ticket…fuck. Sold out.

My beloved Sleigh Bells maybe filled half the room when they played there in April. That’s hyped-as-fuck Sleigh Bells. With $18 tickets. Half-filled ballroom.

The action on the Avett tickets told me a couple of things:

I am lazy, as I waited weeks to take action on those tickets. (I did not make the same mistake with the xx, whom I will see at the sold-out First Avenue show!)

The Avett Brothers must be really good live, if they are selling out a room in Iowa City with little media hype, no SNL appearances, not soundtracking commercials, no new album out, etc., etc.

The first point was simply a reiteration of known fact. The second point was driven home by their performance at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (which is indeed quite fab) in St. Louis.

It was worth the extra drive, if you ask me, for a number of reasons.

t and c

12 years!

First off, the show gave my better half and I the chance to celebrate our anniversary in a way that differed from your typical dinner at the local Biaggi’s or Red Lobster or at home with some Papa Murphy’s. Let’s leave the little fella with my folks, drive a few hours, get a hotel room, enjoy a big city, enjoy some tunes, sleep in the next morning, drop in on some family, and come home to our boy who could hardly stand being away from us those 32 hours or whatever.

(It’s been 12 years as of Sunday. We’ve experienced a lot AND it feels like time has flown, if that makes sense. And with only a few exceptions, she still hates my music. I love her anyway.)

Second, we were able to hang out with our good friends JD and Sondra (the latter of which went to the Sleigh Bells show 30-some weeks pregnant, totally earning the respect of the MoSS? crew), sitting in the outdoor dining area of Kota Wood Fire Grill, drinking drinks and eating eats and enjoying the ambience of an urban arts scene quite different from a typical night in downtown C.R. It was good to get away and yet enjoy the comfort of our friends’ company.

Third, there’s no way standing around the cavernous IMU Main Lounge could hold a candle to sitting in the balcony of the gorgeous Fab Fox, with its ornate touches and outstanding acoustics.

The stage was set for the Avetts to dominate…and dominate they did.

The evening was billed as, um, “An Evening with the Avett Brothers,” which meant no opener. In old guy speak, that also meant we’d get more than two hours of music from the headliner and still be leaving the theater around 10:30. Winning! (Right?!)

The Avetts opened with “Die Die Die” and proceeded to kill it for the next 140 minutes. These guys can do a little bit of everything: raucous romps, slow burns, mournful moments. They criss-crossed through the catalog with ease. They profusely thanked the crowd every two or three songs. They had energy to spare throughout the set.

And if I were to start a “fantasy band” league, I’d have to rank Seth Avett as one of the blue-chip players. That guy can do so much so well. He played his guitar with reckless abandon, he showed great touch when manning the keys, and sang his heart out. And he did his best to propel the beat via stomping the stage at every turn.

Scott’s no slouch either, providing the signature banjo sounds and his own solid vocal work, and Bob Crawford owned the stand-up bass.

Perhaps the greatest moment of the night came just past the halfway point of the show. A single overhead spotlight shone down on Scott and Seth as they sang “Murder in the City,” a song from their 2008 EP The Second Gleam. The brothers stood within the small-diameter circle of light, singing “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name.” The simplicity of the song strips the lyrics bare, and their delivery comes off as sincere rather than hokey.

Then Scott walks off, leaving Seth alone in the spotlight, where the younger brother absolutely stunned the sold-out theater with his rendition of “Souls Like the Wheels” from the same EP. It was nothing short of magical to hear him deliver line after line, punctuated with the last verse:

Souls like the wings
Spreading out away from bad memories
Make us capable of taking off and landing
Alive with understanding
Let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go
Let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go

You could hear a pin drop for a few moments before the room came alive with hoots, hollers, applause, and screams of joy. It was one of those moments where I once again found myself entranced with live music, the kind of moment where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It was also the kind of moment where you might fear the show, or at least the main set, was over. But nah…instead the stage lights come up, the rest of the band takes their places, and Seth says, “OK, I think we’re getting warmed up now.”

I didn’t shoot any video (too scared, as there were venue staff everywhere) but I see someone shot a song from the encore, another intimate affair from the Brothers Avett. Enjoy.

Something about live music in St. Louis. I’ve seen six shows there (The Cure, Jose Gonzalez, Explosions in the Sky, Interpol, M83, the Avetts) and all six were superb. Can’t wait to go back. And hopefully next year I’ll hit the Pygmalion in Champaign-Urbana…