Wild Flag ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
It’s a special thing to see anyone fully in their element. To see someone owning a moment in its totality, and in doing so, present the clearest expression of their own aspirations. Though Wild Flag held onto playing a Ramones cover until the encore at Neumos, the frenetic spirit of the seminal punk band was pulsing through the modern foursome’s entire set. Carrie Brownstein’s leering vocals contrasted catchy-as-fuck harmony hooks and guitar parts that vacillated between locked-in theme development and a bit of goofing off. Yeah, it’s just pop music for punks, but it was rare and satisfying sight to see a band of four where each personality stood out and still coalesced in the way Wild Flag in front of a very sold out Neumos on Friday.
If the band’s pedigree weighed on the room, Wild Flag wasn’t wearing that pressure on their shoulders. Brownstein hammed it up and generally brought levity to an otherwise expectant situation. Striking poses and sharing amused smiles with fellow guitarist and lead vocalist Mary Timony, that levity extended to the rest of the band. Janet Weiss reminds of what a true rock drummer brings to the table, a steady strength that everyone else can rely on always. So when you’ve mastered your instrument and vocal parts as these four have over the past year, what’s left but have fun with it? Comfortable as they were, the stage might as well have been their own practice space.
In openers Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Wild Flag might have found the only other four-part harmony I can think of where each member consistently represents their own distinct personality and still comes together as something more than the expected sum of their parts. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Seth Schaper often steals the spotlight with his wildman guitar work or vocal solos, and bassist/vocalist Kris Doty can tingle a spine or two herself with her vocal accompaniment. As Grow attempts to distinguish himself from any easy definition, he is in constant motion, both on stage and as a songwriter. Not someone to be predictable or easily pinned down, one never quite knows what to expect from a night out with Grow and Co., but Friday represented one of the most accessible presentations I’ve seen from the group.
Drew loves to throw the word “Gospel” out there, and though it’s certainly a part of his roots, he’s steadily sought to blaze a new trail for the Pastors’ Wives so as to upend any expectations. Three weeks of tour had shed much of the band’s extraneous flare and experimentation and they were instead letting the sinewy innards of songs work together and the guts transcend a simple melody or chord structure. This is rock and roll to be sure, but with something deeper motivating it than simple entertainment. This notion was brought home when midset for his only words from stage he acknowledged a new song called “Groundwire” was inspired in part by Seattle’s unexpectedly supportive response to an auto-accident that happened deep in last winter’s snow. Following the accident it wasn’t certain how Grow would recover. We asked ourselves how would an artist with not only personal creative momentum but building career momentum sustain such a show stopping injury? Would 2011 be a lost year for Grow? Friday showed none of our fears were warranted. Though the van crash resulted in an abrupt and temporary stop to Grow’s physical movement, it did nothing to stop his personal momentum.
Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Wild Flag’s Mary Timony ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth