Wild Flag @ The Corner, Melbourne (09/03/2012)
After a solid opening set from synth-based Melburnians New War, the long-running Love of Diagrams appeared next. They were a good fit – they are often complimented on their well-executed back-and-forth vocals, much like those of early Sleater-Kinney albums. It was all smooth sailing until a string broke early in the set. The band simply switched gears for a moment, with Sellbach displaying solid technique during Mountains. Playing her bass guitar high in the neck, this might just have been a perfect audition piece if Wild Flag ever decide to reconsider their bass-less line-up. A freshly strung and tuned guitar back in lead guitarist Luke Horton’s possession, the band played a new song, Story Up. The song was technically ambitious, but lacked a certain bite. The last song Look Out featured some impressive drumming from Monika Fikerle, and probably remained the most memorable song, hook-wise, of the set.
While the all-girl super group Wild Flag have officially been in existence for less than two years, the rock star eminence of its founding members is undeniable. Much of the focus of late has fallen upon guitar goddess and Sleater-Kinney alumnus Carrie Brownstein. Perhaps this is to do with the fact that in 2007 she was named number 12 on Rolling Stone’s Twenty-Five Most Underrated Guitarists. Another explanation could be Carrie’s recent comedic turn in the hipster parody Portlandia (Portland, by the way, is apparently very similar to Fitzroy). But in case anyone didn’t notice, Wild Flag’s fellow vocals and guitar riffs are provided by Mary Timony (Helium), on the drums they have the talented Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Bright Eyes) and last but not least there is Rebecca Cole (aka the drummer turned keyboardist from The Minders). Those are some rockin’ credentials, to say the least.
High expectations were set aside when the ladies appeared, glamorous and windswept, on the Corner stage just after eleven o’clock. When they launched straight into their first exhilarating song, the crowd was visibly taken. There is something powerful in the fact that this female lead band can rouse a reaction that once was reserved exclusively for the likes of Mick Jagger or, to for a more Sleater-Kinney-appropriate example, punk idol Joey Ramone.
A short interlude followed, with Weiss revealed that her kick-pedal was in fact broken. Carrie humorously filled in the time by offering to describe what a kick-pedal was, before reneging on her promise, claiming the ignorance of a mere guitarist. She also managed to slip in an Australian impersonation, which was much enjoyed by the audience. Unfortunately this wasn’t a live performance of Portlandia, and the show had to go on.
The next song demonstrated precisely why Carrie Brownstein is lauded as a rock icon. She performed Future Crimes with vigour and vitriol, perfectly accentuated with guitar theatrics, rock star footwork and of course her trade mark high kicks. The back-up singing worked especially well on this song live, as well. There was a real sense of camaraderie on stage during Electric Band; Wild Flag unmistakably love performing, and their gratitude toward their audience was palpable.
Glass Tamborine, one of the highlights of the latest album, provided an opportunity for more theatrics from both Timothy and Brownstein. The song ended with another high kick and a pick went flying. Following on was Boom, and at this point it was becoming apparent the Brownstein’s pure sonic talent on the guitar and Weiss’ flawless fills were unintentionally stealing the show. The following song had a real Jack White feel, Brownstein’s vocals more deep, gravelly and expressive than usual.
The second-last song before the encore and the highlight of the night was Racehorse, featuring intricate and mind-bending guitar solos by Brownstein. Once more, her punk-infused intensity was set to its highest dial. Romance followed, the most pop-friendly and dance-inducing track from the album. For this song Brownstein wasn’t so much about angst, and she couldn’t help but give a cheeky smile to the love-struck girls dancing madly and singing along at the foot of the stage. The ladies returned for rousing encore, finishing the night with a cover of Bobby Freeman’s Do you wanna dance? Overall, the night proved that Brownstein is an epic guitarist, Weiss is a killer drummer and that we should thank God that they are playing another show at Golden Plains.