On Tuesday evening, instant messaging company Imeem sponsored a party that doubled as both a closing party for film conference attendees and a welcoming party for music conference attendees. During this party, the Independent Film Channel presented a performance by none other than riot-grrl pioneers Sleater-Kinney. It was the first time they played in Texas since their showcase at last year's SXSW.
"We're basically playing inside a big cinder block," singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein joked between songs, "so I hope everything sounds good." The cavernous acoustics of the warehouse did drown out most of the vocals; only singer/guitarist Corin Tucker's banshee vibrato managed to rise about the instruments and the reverb. Despite that, they sounded much better than they did last year. Carrie's guitar playing was both cleaner and more abrasive, especially when the songs from 2005's overwhelming The Woods mutated into extended jams. As always, it was a blast to watch her slide, leap and high-kick around the stage. Janet Weiss' perpetually virtuosic drumming never lost control of the beat, and she even added some harmonica solos to the occasional song (most notably, their brilliant Bruce Springsteen cover). Last but not least, Corin has finally gained full control of her voice, hitting every note right at the bull's eye.
Carrie's stage banter was timid, yet funny. "I'd like to thank the projectionists for not showing videos of us on the screens," she said. "I don't mind looking at Corin and Janet, but I'd feel like I was staring at my 12-year-old self, practicing my moves...wearing clothes that make my torso look too long and my legs look too short."
Although most of the material they played was from The Woods, they threw in many old chestnuts, dating all the way back to Call the Doctor --- can you believe that album came out a decade ago? When they launched into "Get Up" (from 1999's underrated The Hot Rock), I was reminded once again of how melodic and challenging the band's music has always been. All tolled, Sleater-Kinney's set was a perfect way to begin this year's week-long city-wide scavenger hunt for exciting live music.