On Eve Of SXSW, World Conquest, Wild Flag Waves O’er DC

Supergroups are like some second marriages, in which adults, no longer young and quite so foolish, find their proper partners.  So it seems to be with Wild Flag, in which Mary Timony of Helium, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, and Rebecca Cole of The Minders bounce around like ping pong balls about to be drawn in a winning lottery.  For while Helium and Sleater-Kinney had wide followings, our first exposure to Wild Flag would indicate they could be huge.

Anyone who’s listened to the antecedent bands would have recognized not just traces, but huge genetic thumb prints all over Wild Flag’s sound last night at DC’s Black Cat.  In both Helium and her own Mary Timony Band, Timony’s capable of garage-rocking guitar pop, off-kilter and running the gamut between sweet and snarling.  Brownstein and Weiss were two-thirds of one of the smartest bands of the ’90s, and Weiss’s propulsive drumming behind Brownstein’s energetic guitar textures updated the melodic punk rock of Sleater-Kinney in a different context.

For a band that has played less than a dozen gigs, with one songwriter (Timony) based in Washington, the other in Portlandia (Brownstein, the star, with Fred Armisen, of Portlandia), songs gelled nicely.  This is a band that has the wildness of rock’n’roll youth and the maturity of a graduate student before it even goes into the studio to record its first album.  It’s hard to describe songs you’ve never heard before, and for which you don’t even know the titles, but let’s just say there aren’t many bands that can make you think of Lou Reed and Jimi Hendrix, punk rock and the Haight-Ashbury all within the span of two or three songs.

It was something of a homecoming and farewell for Mary Timony, who in DC is more like Mary From The Block than a Riot Grrrl, and who has had an influence on an entire generation of young rockers.  It was great to see her here with the band she’s been working with cross-country.  We have more than an inkling that Wild Flag is going to take SXSW by storm, and that their freak flag is going to be raised above the world, in a conquest as sure as their performance last night before a sold out crowd in Washington.

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