"We were warming up backstage to the Republican debate," Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein announced to a sold-out crowd last night (Dec. 15) at Brooklyn's Music Hall Of Williamsburg. As fans laughed and booed, Brownstein whipped out her signature brand of wit.
"What do you mean -- we're all Republicans!" she joked. "I wanted to come out to you today... as a Ted Cruz supporter."
Brownstein has the air of someone who doesn't take herself too seriously -- in recent years, she's grown to fame as a comedic actress on IFC's "Portlandia" -- but the second her fingers strike a guitar, it's all over. Suddenly, the audience falls silent, and it's serious business. You just can't look away.
In 2001, critic Greil Marcus named Sleater-Kinney the best rock band in America. At the time, they'd come a long way since their inception in 1994, when Brownstein and bandmate Corin Tucker started a new project birthed from the riot grrrl scene of their native Pacific Northwest ("Sleater Kinney" is the name of a highway exit in Olympia, Washington). Once drummer Janet Weiss officially joined, things only got bigger and better: the band's acclaimed records include Dig Me Out (1997), The Hot Rock (1999) and the highly astute, experimental The Woods (2005), which would be their final LP (at least for a while).
We recently called out Sleater-Kinney as an example of a great band that survived a hiatus -- after their show at Music Hall Of Williamsburg (the fourth of a five-night NYC run), we're happy to report that not only have they survived, but totally thrived. Taking the stage amidst screams of adorations from fans of all ages -- some of whom were probably in diapers back when Sleater-Kinney started -- the three women played with the utmost confidence in themselves and their music. It's a comfortable, yet positively electric maturity -- one that's only possible when a band has survived decades of touring, media attention, internal drama (Brownstein and Tucker infamously dated in the '90s), and a lengthy break, just to come out stronger on the other side.
In January of this year, Sleater-Kinney returned to form with No Cities To Love, a release that sounded fresh, timeless, and welcoming after a decade sans new material. As the band ripped through tracks old and new, the crowd only grew wilder -- and yet, things reached a fever pitch during the encore, when Brownstein's "Portlandia" co-star Fred Armisen led a rollicking cover of The B52's "Rock Lobster." Corin Tucker's pink wig was, most definitely, a highlight (not to mention Armisen's "Janet F--king Weiss" t-shirt).
And thus Sleater-Kinney close out 2015, secure in the fact that they made it through unscathed and, most importantly, together. Apart, they might still be funny, and smart, and talented as ever, but as a unit, Sleater-Kinney are true icons.