Friday, February 27, 2015

Sleater Kinney at Terminal 5

Carrie Brownstein & Corin Tucker
Guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein met in 1992. Tucker was a member of the influential riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy and Brownstein was in the queercore band Excuse 17. The bands often played at gigs together and, as a side-project from their respective bands, Tucker and Brownstein formed Sleater-Kinney in 1994 in a brick duplex in Olympia, Washington. The group's name was derived from Sleater Kinney Road in Lacey, Washington, the location of one of the band's early practice spaces. When Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17 disbanded, Tucker and Brownstein focused entirely on Sleater-Kinney. Upon Tucker's graduation in 1994 from Evergreen State College (where Brownstein remained a student for three more years), she and then-girlfriend Brownstein took a trip to Australia. Their last day there, they stayed up all night recording what would become their 22-minute, 1995 self-titled debut. Sleater-Kinney had no bassist, but both Tucker and Brownstein tuned their guitars one and a half steps down (D tuning), such that Tucker's tone and style enabled her to fulfill the role of bass. After going through several drummers, Tucker and Brownstein met Janet Weiss of the band Quasi; Weiss became the band's longest lasting and final drummer. Sleater-Kinney recorded seven albums in 10 years, then went on hiatus in 2006; the trio reunited in 2014 and released a new album, No Cities to Love, on January 20, 2015.

Nearly every group that ever existed in the 20th century has reunited in the 21st century, and the returns are lucrative. When Sleater-Kinney performed a farewell tour in 2006, the band performed one night at Webster Hall. Eight and a half years later, the band sold out two shows at Terminal 5, a venue nearly twice the capacity of Webster Hall. In just under two hours on both nights at Terminal 5, Sleater-Kinney performed 23 songs, although four songs were different tonight, the second night. This was not to be a nostalgia tour, however. The band could have gotten away with performing a hits package, but instead performed eight of the 10 songs from the new album, and even the older songs were not necessarily the anticipated ones. For most of the set, the band did not play more than two consecutive oldies before introducing a new song. For the most part, the band remained a trio, although touring member Katie Harkin played guitar, keyboards and percussion on a few songs. Sleater-Kinney 2.0 was more refined than ever. The band stepped down the punky rawness of its music and consistently presented slicker workouts. The musicians perfected and polished the loud-quiet-loud dynamic common among alternative rock artists of the 1990s. Even the two early songs from the band's second album were less riot grrrl garage band and more classic rock. With shredding guitar leads, barreling percussion and sweet harmonies, Sleater-Kinney preserved its integrity with a solid foot in the past and one in the present. Once a clawing, biting band, however, this slicker presentation of Sleater-Kinney has evolved into a more domesticated pop act.

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