For girls of a certain age -- God, I guess we're grown-up women now -- Sleater-Kinney was an initial introduction into both punk rock and feminist ideology. As we listened to the tunes from their self-titled debut and The Woods, we were subconsciously absorbing the idea that women can be just as talented, just as successful, and just as badass as men. For those young women, Sleater-Kinney represented a riot grrl awakening, not to mention some of the best rock music ever made.
Unfortunately, though, critics seem to cast Sleater-Kinney as just a "feminist" or "girl" band instead of one of the most influential punk acts of all time. Since they started touring after reuniting last year, critics across the country have wondered whether the "aging girl rockers" would be able to keep up their frenetic on-stage intensity. One critic in Pittsburgh accused frontwoman Corin Tucker of looking too "sweet and mom-like" to still rage. Last night at Granada Theatre, as they kicked off their No Cities To Love tour in Dallas, Sleater-Kinney proved all those sexist assholes wrong.
Before Sleater-Kinney took the stage, THEESatisfaction played a short but stellar set of their interesting mash-up sound, influenced by R&B and hip-hop. In a world that is so utterly dominated by male musicians, it was refreshing to see an entire evening of music created by really talented artists who happened to be women. The short set was a downtempo but intense warm-up for what was to come, though no one could really have seen that coming. THEESatisfaction finished their set with tracks from their February release EarthEE, to an impressively warm reception from a bunch of people who were there to see guitar-driven punk music.
The crowd was diverse, full of plenty of men who knew every word to "No Cities To Love." What was impressive, though, were the dudes who were rocking out to deeper cuts with even deeper feminist lyrics, like "Little Babies," and "All Hands On The Bad One." There is no one demographic for Sleater-Kinney, just a bunch of people who enjoy rocking out. As they slammed through their catalog, each song more intense and exciting than the next, it felt like the best history lesson you've ever sat through. They were aggressive, hardcore and angry, never easy for an act that is entirely female.
Sleater-Kinney opened the evening with "Price Tag," the lead track from their latest release. As the crowd danced, tried to mosh, and banged their heads, Sleater-Kinney came out on that stage with the intention of blowing the lid off of the Granada Theater. Together, Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and Carrie Brownstein have a kind of chemistry that bands that have been together for decades still lack. When they play together, there is this air of mutual respect, creativity and confidence that's irresistible.
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Janet Weiss, a vastly underrated drummer, played her ass off; at times, it was difficult to keep your eyes on anything else but her intense and impeccable playing. The interplay between Tucker and Brownstein was particularly interesting, like they were pushing each other to play and sing harder and faster and more intensely at every beat. The performances of "One More Hour" and "Let's Call It Love" were like being teleported to feminist, riot grrl heaven with Tucker and Brownstein's on-point vocals and playing.
There wasn't much crowd interaction -- a few "thank you, Dallas!" announcements, but little else. The one really intimate interaction of the evening was a shout-out to Planned Parenthood, which was outside the venue gathering signatures in opposition to proposed laws that would eliminate cancer screenings for low-income women. (And handing out free condoms and lube.) The show of solidarity got some of the biggest cheers of the evening. If anything could have improved last night's set, it would have been taking a few impromptu requests from the crowd, more politics, more sharing something about their experience in Dallas. Maybe they just didn't think that it was necessary. The music did speak for itself.
After playing for just over an hour and twenty minutes, Sleater-Kinney stepped off stage for a brief break before coming back out to a standing ovation for the encore. No one was ready to leave yet, which made the four-song encore feel particularly indulgent. In that time, they took plenty of chances to shred on their guitars, playing long impromptu interludes between tracks. When "Modern Girl" began to play, it was clear that the crowd had been waiting for that one since they took the stage. Most encores feel like an afterthought, this was a flat-out massacre of the stage that felt like it would last forever. Until it ended, and we all walked out to our cars in a daze, safe in the notion that Sleater-Kinney has only gotten better with time, and hoping that the next generation of budding feminists has an act as aggressive and influential.