Following up on our own recommendations
Wild Flag’s riot grrrl tunes, rollicking electric pop with punk-flare, may not occupy quite the same sphere as EMA’s reflective, deeply confessional songwriting, but there is some overlap. Wednesday’s show, in which EMA preceded the Carrie Brownstein-fronted supergroup on stage, helped to illuminate the linkage between these two formidably bad-ass female artists.
For one, they’re both pretty noisy. Jets of feedback spit from Wild Flag’s amplifiers like so many aberrant sparks from a fire, adding a careless and befittingly rough texture to their power-pop songs. Guitarist Mary Timony picked a solo behind her head (why not?); during the extended noise breakdown on “Glass Tambourine,” Brownstein lifted her instrument high above her head as though in ritual tribute to the device, whilst the stage reverberated about her.
EMA, consisting of singer-songwriter Erika Anderson and 4 bandmates on guitar, drums and electric violin, had somewhat less control over their noise than the well-seasoned frontliners. The output of their five instruments at times became muddled, undercutting the quiet-loud dynamics that, along with Anderson’s haunting and bold lyrics (“Fuck California; you made me boring,” the South Dakota-native blurts in epic harangue “California“), propelled last year’s Past Life Martyred Saints into the indie consciousness.
Anderson probably came of age listening to the thrilling riffs of Brownstein’s acclaimed 90s punk outfit, Sleater-Kinney, and the bonds of respect were visible. “I’d like to think I learned some of those moves from Carrie Brownstein,” said Anderson after a particularly physical performance. “I can’t do the kicks though — too lanky for that shit,” the six-foot-tall artist added.
Brownstein did the kicks (so to speak; also literally), though they were fewer and farther between than fan-lore would have one believe. Actually, Brownstein’s demeanor could best be described as professional — a tad disappointing, given the incredible flow of endearing dorkiness she is capable of producing for her TV show, Portlandia. This is forgivable: a woman can only be so many people at once.
In the end, the linkage materialized: EMA and Wild Flag are two female-forward bands that operate without regard for the mainstream — even the indie mainstream. They don’t really sound like the future, they don’t really sound like the past, and they certainly don’t give a hoot about the imperative to wed the two that is coming out of Brooklyn these days. What they are, is women with attitude who like guitars. For the adoring crowd at The Fillmore, that was more than enough.