Ladies Night

October 19th, 2011

Wild Flag/Eleanor Friedberger – The Bowery Ballroom – October 18, 2011

Wild Flag

It would be tough to describe Wild Flag’s sold-out set last night at The Bowery Ballroom without doing a lot of cursing. The four-woman “supergroup”—Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony and Janet Weiss—had too many “[bleep] yeah!” rock-and-roll moments to count: high leg kicks, windmill guitar playing, vertical leaps and more. The playing was totally badass as they worked through the material off their eponymous debut album with relentless drumming from start to finish combined with an electricity passing between the two guitars like a jagged lightning bolt slipping between two clouds. And then there were standout moments, like the jam out of the midset “Glass Tambourine” or the monster stretched-out set-closer “Racehorse,” in which the guitars, drums and organ meshed together in a thermonuclear explosion of sound. At those times, all you could say was “Holy s#$!”

Fiery Furnaces listeners often have had a different kind of reaction: “WTF?” But, seeing them live, it was always clear that Eleanor Friedberger was a force of nature. Playing solo material off her excellent Last Summer release in the opening slot last night, she was both at her most accessible and still plenty weird. She draws you in by delivering her words more like reciting epic poetry than singing pop songs, with the music behind her almost incidental at times. The lyrics read like diary entries recanting strange days out in Brooklyn or long letters to lost lovers. Stripped of whatever studio magic went into making them on the album, the songs were fresh and raw and pure Friedberger. “Roosevelt Island,” with a tempo that threatened to get away from her but didn’t, and the sublime “Scenes from Bensonhurst,” the lyrics matching the slow bass groove, were highlights. New songs seemed to promise more to come, which, she seemed to assure us, is a good thing. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mina K