Sleater Kinney brings punk and riot grrrl to the Scene

    A huge part of the charm of a riot grrrl show is the interaction between the audience and the band. It’s an intimate relationship based on the crowd dancing furiously, screaming lyric after lyric and the musicians responding with surprise tracks from the past and impromptu solos. Sleater Kinney’s performance at the Scene on Sept. 20 was just such a performance, the epitome of a punk rock show with a feminist twist.

    Courtesy of Kill Rock Stars

    Following nearly two years of studio time and song-writing, Sleater Kinney began their 2002 cross-country tour with a lot of expectations to fulfill.

    Considered to be one of the prodigies of the Olympia, Wash. punk scene, the three-member band has come to define the riot grrrl movement throughout its nine-year history. Corin Tucker (vocals and guitar), Carrie Bronstein (guitar) and Janet Weiss (drums) followed the performances by Shannon Wright and fellow Kill Rock Stars labelmates The Bangs, the latter playing most of the songs off of their newly released EP, “”Call and Response.””

    Punctuated with mishaps and false starts, the one-and-a-half hour set took on a humorous vibe of its own, complete with bar jokes and anecdotes of Tucker’s running into Robert Plant and begging for his autograph.

    Courtesy of Kill Rock Stars

    One of the most intense moments of the performance was Weiss’s launch into a percussion solo that lasted nearly two minutes during “”Oh!”” from “”One Beat.”” The entire venue — including Bronstein and Tucker — seemed consumed as Weiss took her audience further and further into a solo-turned piece of its own. That kind of energy defined Sleater Kinney’s stage presence: a lively and driving demonstration of a passion for music.

    Starting off with two new tracks off of their sixth album, “”One Beat,”” which was released Aug. 20, Sleater Kinney interspersed new songs with singles from previous albums. The two-song encore skipped the new album, bringing out the title track to their third album, “”Dig Me Out”” and “”I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”” from the band’s sophomore effort, “”Call the Doctor.””

    The older tracks were particularly fun to hear, since the latest album is lacking a bit in the technical complexity and aggressive tone that permeated previous albums “”All Hands on the Bad One”” and “”The Hot Rock.”” Although Bronstein performs more as a vocalist on “”One Beat”” than on any of the other five collections, instead of adding additional layers of musical intricacy, the effect is too sing-song, too girly and too much like other lyric-based music.

    The experimental aspects of albums such as “”Call the Doctor”” and “”The Hot Rock”” were appreciated because they demonstrated the depth that a riot grrrl band can possess, smashing the stereotypes about the genre being the angry whinings of chicks who can’t play their instruments. “”One Beat”” takes some of the quirky aspects of former albums, but fails to give anything new.

    When the band moves into the East Coast portion of the tour, New York natives Yeah Yeah Yeahs will replace The Bangs as their opener, with long-time Kill Rock Stars band The Quails playing as an additional precursor on select dates. The tour wraps up in Brooklyn in late October, after two solid months of performances. Even as the most recent album by Sleater Kinney disappoints those who have come to expect more from a band that has been rocking the riot grrrl scene for two decades, their most recent touring effort lives up to every standard of punk performances.

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