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Sleater-Kinney @ Roseland, NYC

Posted on 27 June 2005 by Caryn Rose (2)

6-23-05

I wasn’t going to go, for a lot of dumb and lame reasons. I am so spoiled after living in Seattle for 10 years and having seen them at venues from the Velvet Elvis (a very long time ago) to opening for Patti Smith just a few summers back.

And then the phone call came, late one night. It was Heather and it was at 1am which means 11pm Seattle time and there were Carrie and Janet and Corin screaming down a cell phone line from the Moore Theater in Seattle, opening show of the tour. She left the line open until it dropped and I swear, I had goosebumps.

I bought the tickets to Roseland the next day.


I never felt cool enough to be at a Sleater-Kinney show in the northwest. This vibe did not *ever* come from the band, but it sure came from the audience. But Roseland was different: the long-haired “cool” dads with their sons, women of my age with their work shoes tucked into their shoulder bag, adorable little lesbians with shaved heads down front, indie rock boys jumping up and down like pogo sticks next to me and trading shy little grins of delight. Everyone was in their own little pocket of glee and every once in a while — when Carrie would jump up in the air or Corin’s voice would soar into the clouds or Janet would hit a particularly righteous drum lick, we would exchange glances and all that joy, the joy to me which is always best symbolized by the glowing delighted smile on Carrie Brownstein’s face, spilled over into your neighbor and by the end of the night, everyone’s little puzzle piece fit together and we were ALL screaming “Dig Me Out” back at the band by the time the second encore rolled around. I smiled so hard that my face hurt by the end of the night.

Someone – I wish I could remember who – commented a while back that everyone’s talking about how commercial the band sounded, and that they felt that ‘commercial’ was some kind of euphemism for ‘male,’ which I think is crap. But The Woods is, indeed, A BIG ROCK RECORD. It is clean and clear and solid and this is not a band on the margins of anything any longer. But it is still absolutely, positively Sleater-Kinney, no one else sings or plays like they do, singly and together, so there is no tinge of whatever you (and I am sure there are many singing this refrain back in my adopted hometown) might refer to as “sell out”. When we walked out of the show, me still high on everything, I was trying to explain it, them, all of it, to the boyfriend, and I used this really childish analogy: you know how when you buy a fish, it will only grow to fit the aquarium it lives in? Well, I kind of feel that way about Sleater-Kinney. That they, by choice, were in a lovely little fishbowl but as soon as they left it, realized how much bigger they could be and still be themselves. While they were always powerful and mighty, right now they ROAR.

Carrie has said that she doesn’t like playing old material live – a woman after my own heart – and so the set was heavy on The Woods (every song but one), but there was also “Dig Me Out” and “Words & Guitar” and then a few numbers from One Beat. The the covers were polar opposites: “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight” by Richard and Linda Thompson balanced with “Mother” by Danzig (ohmigod that rocked HARD. no, seriously). My only bummer was that New York City did not rate “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” — I mean, what gives? Musically, technically, they were astounding, they have never ever been sloppy but there was such unbelievable precision and power evident on that stage, Janet especially on point. The sound system was stellar, crystal clear, no distortion.

Realize that I know that it is so cliche at this point to devote 20 minutes of a review to “Let’s Call It Love” but it’s hard not to when it is a freaking Godzilla monster of power and precision and passion. It doesn’t dominate the set, but you know it’s coming and it felt like everyone was waiting for it, the boyfriend said “Even though I had no idea what it was, I knew that it was THE song,” the big communal AHHHHHH when the THUD THUD THUD started that dissolved into ecstasy once Corin started singing. I know, it can’t be THAT good, right? WRONG. It *is* that good and that large and that mighty, and I want to see them standing onstage at Madison Square Garden in two years with everyone flashing their lighters when the song starts. (Yeah, it’s 70s and it’s rockist but it is also way fucking cool and you know it.)

Nick Hornby said in a reading recently that people talk about gigs being “life changing” when they seem to carry on just as they were before, but what I wanted to tell him was that sometimes it’s on the inside that it all happens, sometimes it’s tiny, sometimes it’s a delayed reaction, sometimes it’s like hitting your internal reset button — well, Sleater-Kinney were all of those things and more the other night. I walked out feeling a foot taller and wishing I could just get in the car and drive to the next one, and envying the girls somewhere (because they have to exist) who are spending their summer vacation doing just that.

words and guitar
I got it, words and guitar
I want it, way, way too loud
I got it words and guitar
I play it all
(can’t take this away from me)
I play it all
(music is the air I breathe)
I play it
(can’t take this away from me)
words and guitar

Sleater-Kinney, “Words & Guitar”
from Dig Me Out

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2 Responses to “Sleater-Kinney @ Roseland, NYC”

  1. BP says:

    S-K on Letterman tonight, Monday, June 27, FYI! Hope all’s well in NYC…

  2. Jesse says:

    You should have gotten in the car. The Philly show was also amazing.

    And you are right about the crowd. Sleater-Kinney shows always have a very diverse audience, but one that always gets on well with each other.

    And Caryn, “The Woods” is growing on me. Very, very quickly.