It started out as an unusual night (as Carrie said at one point, “"This is one of the first times in many years that I have actually been out on New Year’s… Way past my bedtime right now"). So it was interesting how normal it felt after a while, as if we’d been doing this forever.
The most obvious difference was never going to feel normal. My S-K buddy of almost two decades, with whom I’d attended all 14 previous shows, is living in SoCal now. You can’t normalize the absence of that kind of connection. The solution was two-fold. First, I went with two great folks for new bonding. Second, while my friend wasn’t there, three other friends did attend, named Corin, Carrie, and Janet. Corin said it was good to see us, that she remembered so many faces from over the years, prior to saying, “Some of you might recognize this song” and segueing into “Milkshake n’ Honey”, which I hadn’t heard them play in more than ten years. They don’t often surprise any more ... we know pretty much what they will do, no matter the set lists ... and that’s what I mean about being with friends.
Opening act The Thermals from Portland was pretty good ... they’ve been around for almost 15 years, so “pretty good” was expected. Most importantly, Kathy Foster plays bass. It’s rare to see a bass guitar at an S-K show. Even more rare, she joined the band for a couple of the encores, which I think was a first for me: S-K w/bass.
The music between sets came via Britt Daniel of Spoon. He relied a lot on Bowie and Prince, which was appropriate.
A little past 10:30, S-K hit the stage. They seemed to be having more fun than I remember from the past. From my spot on the floor, some rows back, Carrie seemed to have someone down front who was entertaining her (pun not intended). They pulled out “Dance Song ‘97”, which I don’t think I’d ever seen live. They trotted out warhorses like “Little Babies” and “You’re No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun”. I began their set with my earplugs in, but I took them out for an incendiary version of “Jumpers” ... I don’t know if they hit another gear or I just reacted to the overwhelming noise, but it was then that I came closer to the rarely-achieved moment of ecstasy that I’m always hoping for at a concert.
About 11:40, they started the unmistakable riff that said "Let's Call It Love". I shouted at my friend that of course they would play it, because it usually went on for so long. Sure enough, after a segue into "Entertain", a big ball came down from the ceiling, we counted down from ten, the ball lit up to read "Sleater-Kinney 2017", and a bunch of balloons and ticker tape things fell on all of us. I don’t think I’ve ever been at something like that ... I can only remember one big New Year’s Eve party, and it didn’t have that. All of this was way more fun than I expected. I guess I assumed in my cranky way that a New Year’s celebration would just get in the way of the concert, but I was wrong.
They finished with all of the acts on stage, doing "Faith" (Carrie vocals, Corin on ACOUSTIC GUITAR!) and "Rebel Rebel" (everyone taking turns singing lead). Corin channeled her 60s Girl Group self during the latter, before turning ferocious when her lead moment arrived.
Here’s the setlist:
A New Wave
What's Mine Is Yours
Milkshake n' Honey
Not What You Want
Bury Our Friends
Dig Me Out
Let's Call It Love
Dance Song '97
You're No Rock n' Roll Fun
Here is “Faith”, from the invaluable AdmiralNeeda: