sleater-kinney 2024

Wrote a long email to a friend who had forwarded me a video of Corin and Carrie, and thought maybe it was time to put my thoughts here on the blog.

I've been thinking a lot about S-K lately. The new album is the reason, plus it seems like everyone I know wants to tell me that the band has a new album ... I guess my Sleater-Kinney obsession is well-known.

When No Cities to Love came out after the ten-year hiatus, I was happy. It wasn't their greatest album, but it was good, better than I had expected, and I looked forward to the future. And they were still great live ... saw them 3 times, climaxing with a New Years Eve show at the end of 2016. But then came The Center Won't Hold, which I liked but didn't love, and then Janet left the band. I saw them twice after that, my 16th and 17th time, and honestly, I liked the three times I saw Wild Flag more than I liked those shows. When Path of Wellness came out, it barely registered with me, and now Little Rope sounds OK but I'm not obsessed anymore.

And I think it's all about Janet. I thought of Sleater-Kinney as a trio ... maybe because the first time I saw them was in 1998, after Janet joined the band, or maybe because I was so in love with her drumming. I thought of her as the final piece in creating a great band. Now, I don't suppose we'll ever know exactly what happened, and I imagine the three of them are on good terms, but I haven't been able to shake what Janet said when she left. “I said, ‘Am I just the drummer now?’ They said yes. And I said, ‘Can you tell me if I am still a creative equal in the band?’ And they said no. So, I left.”

That crushed me, way more than the hiatus ever did. It was like when the Beatles broke up. Because I got the feeling, and nothing the last five years have shown me otherwise, that Carrie and Corin always thought it was their band, while I always thought it was a trio.

So I might like them better now if I hadn't loved them before. But I can't get Janet out of my mind. I wish I liked Quasi, but I don't.


music friday

Good old X, the Spotify AI DJ, turned me on to this one. The War and Treaty, "Lover's Game":

The Yardbirds, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago". The video has both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on guitar ... this song was the first time the two did so on a Yardbirds recording. The video is lip-syncing from The Milton Berle Show ... the quality is poor and the band don't seem very interested.

CMAT is a rising performer from Ireland ... her name is Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson. This is "I Don't Really Care for You":

My wife once asked how many versions of "Fishin' Blues" exist, because I love them all and like putting them on playlists for when we drive in the car. This is one of my favorites.

I never get tired of this one:


music friday: 29 singers

So, what is this list?

Joan Baez, Chuck Berry, Bono, Roger Daltrey, Bob Dylan, Billie Eilish, Marianne Faithfull, Rob Halford, Emmylou Harris, Debbie Harry, Levon Helm, Chrissie Hynde, Etta James, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Youssou N'Dour, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Joe Strummer, Corin Tucker, Muddy Waters, Neil Young.

To start the new year, Rolling Stone gave us their list of the 200 Best Singers of All Time. The above 29 singers are the people on that RS list that I have seen live. A few selections follow.

Chuck Berry, backed by the Steve Miller Blues Band at the Fillmore Auditorium, was my first rock concert (1967). It was recorded for a live album:

The first time we saw Patti Smith was at a club in San Francisco in February of 1976. It was simulcast on local FM channel KSAN:

The fourth and fifth times we saw Bruce Springsteen came at Winterland in December of 1978 (it was the last month before Bill Graham closed down the old hall). The first of those two shows was also broadcast on KSAN:

Our first Prince show was at a small club in March of 1981, the Dirty Minds tour. Here's a few minutes of a show he played a week before we saw him:

And here is a clip from the last song from the last concert I attended, last March:


music friday: wild flag

Wild Flag was one of the bands that arose during Sleater-Kinney's "hiatus", which lasted roughly from 2006-2014. Wild Flag was short-lived ... their only album and their four singles all came out in the same year, 2011. Somehow, I managed to see them three times during that short stint: in 2010, before they had released an album, 2011, and 2012 when the played The Fillmore. The band included two members of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss), along with Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole. Thanks largely to Carrie, they were a potent live act (of course, Janet's drums helped, and Timony is a talent in her own right, as well as a good guitarist with a more traditional approach than Brownstein's).

Here is their network TV debut on Letterman:

Here is the video for the single "Electric Band":

And live, they cover Television and Patti Smith (the latter especially is on fire):


music friday: new year's eve, 2016

A couple of nights ago, during one of my incessant vivid dreams, I found myself at some function or another with Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. In the dream, Janet had already been excised from the band, yet things seemed congenial enough.

I saw them on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2016. It was my 15th S-K show, the third since their long hiatus. It was the first, and likely the last, New Year's Eve show I attended, and we had a blast. I've seen two post-Janet S-K shows, and they were OK, but Janet meant so much to my feelings for the band that those shows were reduced to "just another concert", quite a drop from when I would see what was my favorite band of the past 20 years.

So that New Year's Eve show five years ago remains the last time I saw the Corin-Carrie-Janet version of the band, which will always be the one that matters to me. It's not as bad as when The Who continued after Keith Moon died, but the way it ended still makes me sad.

I wrote about the show here, if you want to get my immediate reaction. I went with Elisa Salasin, who among her many talents is an incomparable photographer. We have two of her photos from that night framed on the wall of the entrance hall of our house.  Here is one:

S-k new years 2

Here they are, shot by the incredible Admiral Needa, performing one of my live favorites, "Let's Call It Love", sliding into "Entertain", before counting down the seconds until the New Year:

Honestly, it makes me wanna cry seeing Janet behind those drums for what would be my last time.


sleater-kinney at red rocks

Quick comments. Sleater-Kinney is touring as an opening act for Wilco, and their show at Red Rocks was streamed for $20.

First, the back-up band. And that's what they were. There's a bass player who is superfluous, mostly just playing what Corin plays on the guitar. Drummer knew all of Janet's parts and played them well ... it's not his fault I miss her so much. Keyboard player ... well, it was a nice addition.

Then there was Fabi Reyna. Her guitar work was different enough from Carrie's to distinguish itself, and very much in the S-K mode. She added the background vocals that used to fall to Janet (sigh), and she was an active presence onstage. Easily the best part of this back-up band.

Corin and Carrie were very good. The song selection was the same from their show five days ago, although they moved "Bury Our Friends" down the setlist. Nothing older than "One Beat", although there were four songs from The Woods. The new stuff sounded fine, and I've grown to like the previous album. Still, the highlights for me were the old ones.

Setlist:

Path of Wellness
High in the Grass
Hurry On Home
Price Tag
Down the Line
What's Mine Is Yours
Can I Go On
Shadow Town
Worry With You
Reach Out
Jumpers
Bring Mercy
Bury Our Friends
Complex Female Characters
Surface Envy
Modern Girl
A New Wave
One Beat
Entertain


music friday: csn&y, omd, s-k

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Oakland Coliseum, July 1974. Another Day on the Green show, with CSN&Y headlining. It was part of an ill-fated reunion tour from the oft-squabbling bandmates, one that didn't go well from their perspective, although it was financially successful (at least before the spending on drugs and the like). From our seats far into the upper deck of the Coliseum, their performance was disappointing, especially the acoustic segments. We preferred The Band, not just that afternoon but in general. Forty years later, they released CSNY 1974, a compilation of several shows from the tour. Here is an entire show from Wembley (I've started the video well into the concert, with "Don't Be Denied"):

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, maybe the Kabuki Theater, sometime in the early 1980s? I include this, even though I can't remember the venue or the date, so I can retell a favorite anecdote. I'd won the tickets on the local college radio station and invited a friend along. This was early in the period when computers became an integral part of band performances, and I admit I was a bit too rockist to appreciate that tendency. So while it put a damper on the concert, I admit I thought it was funny that after a couple of songs, they announced that they would have to stop playing for a bit to fix a computer. In fairness, when they finally returned, they busted their ass to connect with the crowd. But I'll always think of it as the Night the Computers Died. Here is the video from one of my favorites of their songs:

Sleater-Kinney, Great American Music Hall, Greek Theatre, Fillmore Auditorium, Warfield Theater, Masonic Auditorium, Fox Theater, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2015, 2016, 2019. Not sure there's much I can add to all I have written about them in the past ... this link will take you to every blog post with the tag "Sleater-Kinney". As of this writing I have seen them 17 times, second only to Bruce Springsteen. I love them, and I miss Janet Weiss. Here they are in Paris in 2015, a month or so before we saw them for the first time in nine years:


the live music questionaire

Everyone else is doing it, and it seems like a nice sidebar to recent Music Friday posts about concerts.

First concert: Judy Collins, Berkeley Community Theater, March 4, 1967.

Judy collins bct 1967

Last concert: Sleater-Kinney, Fox Theater, Oakland, November 17, 2019.

Best concert: Bruce Springsteen, Winterland, San Francisco, December 15, 1978.

Worst concert: Edgar Winter, San Diego, September, 1975. Brother Johnny was also on the bill, but we left before he came on. Sound was awful, so I can't really say how good/bad Edgar was.

Loudest concert: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Cow Palace, San Francisco, October 22, 1978. This was the concert filmed for the movie Rust Never Sleeps.

Seen the most: Bruce Springsteen (36 times), Sleater-Kinney (17 times), Lou Reed (a lot), Prince (6), Pink (6), The Clash (5).

Most surprising: Probably an opening act, since by definition I didn't expect much out of them. Examples that come to mind: Rockpile (1979 opening for Blondie), The Gossip (2000? opening for Sleater-Kinney), Matt Nathanson (2006 opening for Pink at the Fillmore).

Next concert: Whatever it is, I fear it will be virtual.

Wish I could have seen: Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback Special sit-down session.


music friday: rolling stone's 500 best albums of all time

So Rolling Stone updated its list of top albums ... I think this is version 3. Here are a few selections.

Prince, Purple Rain (#8):

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (#21):

Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out (#189):

Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings (#480):