Welcome back, Sleater-Kinney.
Their first tour since going on hiatus back in 2006, riot grrls Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss were back better than ever, with an audience demand so massive that the venue was swapped from the tiny Turner Hall to the much-larger Riverside Theatre. Packed into the mosh pit beside me was an entire spectrum of colorful characters, from the lifelong devotees, dressed head to toe in riot grrl attire, to casual boppers just looking to have a good time. And then there was me, new to the band but just as passionate as any of them.
Too young to remember Sleater-Kinney back in their pre-hipster era Olympia, Washington beginnings, and too obsessed with the boybands of the day to catch the trio’s later albums, it was a mutual friend passionate about punk music who linked me to a primer playlist online. I felt like the kid from Almost Famous discovering all those albums under his bed. “This will change your life, I swear,” and oh, it did.
But first, I’d be amiss to forget about Sleater-Kinney’s incredible opening act, Minneapolis-based rapper Lizzo. From the second she entered the room to the “Imperial March,” I knew she was going to be a hit. If you ever need someone to completely raise the energy in a room from 1 to 100 in a matter of minutes, she’s your girl. Even the concert photographer couldn’t resist jumping around at one point. Lizzo’s music is fast-paced and fun as hell, containing some of the cheekiest lyrics I’ve heard in a long while. Later, as she sang another hit titled “Batches & Cookies”, Lizzo tossed cookies into the pit while sporting an apron. Put bluntly, it was pretty amazing. One can’t help but feel like royalty while jamming alongside Lizzo. At one point, she called for the crowd to light up the stage like they would for a rock concert.
The girl next to me immediately pulled out her lighter and, off my surprised look, said “Don’t worry, I won’t burn this place down.” Even if she had, I thought, it would’ve been the most exciting thing to happen to me that day, the first being Lizzo’s set. My only complaint is that she had to leave the stage. I look forward to the day when she headlines a tour of her very own.
But of course, this was Sleater-Kinney’s show, and they absolutely killed. Fans had been waiting years for this moment, and there was no way the girls were going to keep them any longer. They started playing right away and, perhaps making up for all the lost time, barely stopped to let us catch our breaths. You know that rush in your stomach you get when going over a hill on a rollercoaster or in the car on a road trip? Well, that’s what this night felt like, but in the best way. Playing a mix of popular songs like “Start Together” and “Jumpers” alongside most of the tracks from brand new album “No Cities to Love,” Sleater-Kinney gave their audience a trip down memory lane, as well as a look at what’s (hopefully) yet to come.
They were in top form. The trio took everyone on a trip back to the 90s as if there was never any hiatus, just a long creative process that stood to stop time with its amazing outcome. Most importantly, however, is that the three were clearly having a great time. Corin and Carrie traded grins in between songs; Carrie happily shred her guitar numerous times during the set, raising it over her head like the champion that she is. In a particularly sweet and intimate moment, Carrie rested her head on Corin’s shoulder during a song. Last, but certainly not least, Janet was happily drumming and cowbell-ing away the entire time. Every time she hit her sticks I got chills down my spine. It’s clear that they’ve missed us just as much as we’ve missed them.
At the end of their set, as the girls left the stage, the cheering and screaming from us mosh-ers escalated so intensely I had to remind myself that no, I hadn’t accidentally walked into a One Direction concert. And then, suddenly, they were back. It was like a gift from the Gods.
Sleater-Kinney returned to perform five last songs, including two of their first hits, “Dig Me Out”, and “Call the Doctor”. There’s nothing more powerful than chanting “call the doctor, call the doctor” with hundreds of strangers. That’s the magic of Sleater-Kinney. I was born too late to be an original riot grrl, but that night I opened my arms and was embraced and recognized as a true member, and I fell in love with the movement. Everyone looking for a rock-and-roll rollercoaster or something to stomp around to in their rooms are advised to check out Sleater-Kinney immediately. They have something for everyone, be it rock hits, slower break-up hits to cry over, or even more relaxed tunes to wave your arms to. What are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this? Go! Listen! Be free!
You can find Lizzo’s debut album “LIZZOBANGERS” and other singles on Spotify and iTunes. Sleater-Kinney’s new album No Cities to Love is available to buy now. Their music catalogue can also be found on Spotify and other music streaming services.
What’s Mine is Yours
Light Rail Coyote
No Cities to Love
A New Wave
Words and Guitar
Bury Our Friends
Dig Me Out
One More Hour
Call the Doctor