Wild Flag, Drew Grow and The Pastors Wives
October 28, 2011
Better than: only experiencing the album.
At least every once in a while, a performance causes a person to reflect on that eternal question: "Did I waste my money on this?"
While the age of digital music has made it easier to avoid that question when it comes to buying an album, that same question of return on investment still raises its ugly little head from time to time as pertains to the live show end of things.
The performances at The Loft on Friday evening triggered that math for this reviewer.
As most of Dallas watched in dejection as the Rangers pissed away the potential glory of their first World Series championship and few souls ventured out to see live music, The Loft served up Drew Grow, Pastors Wives and the uber-rocking women of Wild Flag.
Never heard of Drew Grow? I hadn't either, until their CD magically appeared in my mail (physical mail at that) earlier in the week. I'd popped it into the car's CD player to check it out and surprisingly enjoyed it. Another tortured Christian singer-songwriter -- but enjoyable enough -- the sound was a bit reminiscent of Dallas's own The Beaten Sea or maybe a more gospel-tinged Fox & The Bird. I even made a point of getting to The Loft early to not miss any of the set.
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But it really disappointed. The band was certainly proficient, if a bit over-driven in sincerity. The line up included the bands namesake playing an old Gibson electric (an ES-125), a bassist that switched between a stand-up and a Rickenbacker (interesting dichotomy), a drummer and a lead guitarist in white-framed glasses that demanded attention. All contributed to some nice harmonies, and the lead guitarist also amped up the edginess of the band with unusual guitar play, an aggressive pseudo-dobro technique and a beaming stage persona. But whether it was the over-driven mics or the shear volume, all in all, it was a bit of a let down compared to the CD.
By contrast, Wild Flag is a band that you simply have to see to fully appreciate. Each member of Wild Flag has a well-earned reputation; they garnered lots of press when their formation was announced, and more when they played a number of live shows in the spring starting with SXSW. When their album was finally released in late September, I made a point of purchasing the day it became available.
And? Well, it's not something I would sit down and listen to from corner to corner again after that initial listen.
But, live, let me tell you: They deliver. Anchored by the powerful drumming of Janet Weiss (she's just awesome), this band rocks hard. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony are both extremely good guitarists, and they trade licks and share vocals like the consummate pros they are. Keyboardist Rebecca Cole gets a bit overshadowed, but bursts forth from time to time.
Brownstein in particular is just a natural performer, kicking and jumping and oozing charisma.
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The set, as expected, drew almost exclusively from the debut release. Highlights? The Black Sabbath-inspired "Glass Tambourine" was great. Mary tapping out the signature of "Short Version" was awesome. A new song (released on their web site) called "Winter Pair" was excellent.
As for the economics? Definitely money well spent for the live Wild Flag experience. If it takes buying the album to keep 'em touring, sign me up.
Random Note: As much charisma as the ladies have on stage, off stage they are pretty awkward. A simple "Hi!" to Timony caused her to retract and literally hide behind her guitar. Yikes!
Personal Bias: As noted in perhaps too many of my reviews, a good drummer is in my opinion the make-or-break performer for a good performance. And Janet Weiss is just a damn good rock drummer that propels this bands live music.