Thursday, 2 February 2012

Wild Flag and Peggy Sue at Electric Ballroom - 1 February 2012

Wild Flag (photo: Jay L. Clendenin / L.A. Times)

It’s freezing.

My desire to stay in the warm rather than risk losing body parts in a cold, cold queue means that I arrive in the Ballroom a good twenty five minutes after tonight’s support are due on.

Fortune favours the coward. Whether Peggy Sue have been huddled round an electric fire or are just a bit tardy doesn’t matter. I’m able to take my place before they arrive on stage.

Although I am familiar with the band by name, I’ve never actually seen them before. They are not quite what I was expecting.

Peggy Sue are fronted by Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw who, far from any obvious rock ‘n’ roll influence instead sing songs that borrow from rural American folk roots.

They’re very god at it too. The instrumentation and drumming is so minimal, so primitive and spare that my first impression is that the band cannot play at all. I soon realise that this view is utterly incorrect – Peggy Sue do not embellish or play a wasted note. Every strum, every beat, is no more than is required to service the wonderful harmonies.

I may not quite be in the mood for them tonight, but I recognise Peggy Sue as a very smart outfit indeed. I shall investigate them further.

Wild Flag come trailing clouds of glory from previous bands. They are billed in some quarters as a ‘super group’ because members have done time in seminal bands like Sleater-Kinney, Helium, The Jicks and The Minders. I’m not interested in their past, just what occurs in front of me tonight.

What is clear from the off is how confident and slick they are.

If this wasn’t an all girl band, I’d almost call this cock-rock. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony on guitar and bass respectively not only take shares of the vocal duties but often punctuate proceedings with competitive solos, instruments thrust phallically upward as they face each other. Jimi Hendrix would have loved it.

The songs are impressive and varied. If anything testifies to the fact that these women have histories in other bands it is this feeling that the music has been written by separate songwriters and then fine-tuned into something for the whole group during the playing and rehearsal stage.

There is still room for improvisation alongside the professionalism. ‘Glass Tambourine’ and ‘Racehorse’ both turn into lengthily extended jam sessions.

For an encore, Wild Flag perform a rousing version of Television’s ‘See No Evil’ – plenty of scope for guitar work in that one.

I find Wild Flag much easier to admire than to wholeheartedly embrace, which is kind of how I’d felt about Peggy Sue earlier. So not a total rave then, but certainly an impressive evening.

I head out into the night. It’s colder than a witch’s suckling equipment out here…

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