“They were all women on stage and the guitar techs were eunuchs!” one of my road trip companions exclaimed as we skated the three blocks of icy sidewalks from Stage AE back to our hotel room after the sold-out Sleater-Kinney concert in Pittsburgh.
We had been drinking for a few hours prior to the show, you see, and we were feeling loose all night, loudly playing games like guess who’s going to the show while we waited for our food at the sports bar down the street. It wasn’t a hard game. Anyone who looked like a protester or an employee at a feminist book store (Dude! your ponytail gave you away!) were going to see Sleater-Kinney. Those in Penguins jerseys were there for hockey on the big screens.
Later in the night, I turned heel and tried to start a (loud) discussion of how bad the white guys have got it these days. I wasn’t being serious, even if the sideways glances shot my way would indicate otherwise.
Still, that one excited, drunken shout neatly summed up the feelings of many who fought through the Pittsburgh wintry mix to make it to Stage AE Sunday night to see the all- woman punk rock trio, Sleater-Kinney, on their first tour in nearly a decade. One could sense in the fixated glares on the fans faces who looked up to the stage and locked in on Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals), Corrin Tucker (vocals/guitar) and Janet Weiss (drums) that this is an important band, who by virtue of simply being, and being an unwavering voice for women in the still male-dominated arena of Rock ‘N’ Roll, inspire fierce devotion.
On one side of the stage, stood the stoic Tucker, in white dress, hair pulled back and with bright red lipstick, her voice big and bold, and deceptively soulful. Her foil, Brownstein, was clad in all black — black skirt, black tights and black top, and was the entertainer of the bunch. As she twisted those guitars of hers into knots, she would exaggerate her movements with an endless repertoire of windmills and kicks. Between the two was Weiss, expertly dicing her rhythms, with minimal effort. As Marky Ramone would tell you, playing fast is all in the wrists.
With little fanfare, the trio, with the help of a touring member off in the shadows, blazed through their set, mixing old and new, like the propulsive, anti-consumer anthem, “Price Tag,” and the disco-infused stormer, “Fangless,” from their latest release, 2015’s No Cities to Love, and “The End of You,” “Start Together,” and “Get Up,” from 1999’s The Hot Rock. Brownstein paused once, to say how great it was to be back in Pittsburgh, even if she wasn’t sure the band had ever played Pittsburgh before. Tucker was all business. Only speaking before the encore to thank Planned Parenthood.
When they’re on, and Sleater-Kinney were always on Sunday night, they don’t have to pander and they don’t have to preach. They can let the music do the talking.
There was a palpable rise in the already geeked crowd during the stuttering and slashing, “Words and Guitar,” and the militaristic march of “One Beat.”
Those two highlights would later be eclipsed by an encore which included the muscular rev of “Dig Me Out,” the pop, jangle and thrash of “One More Hour,” and the powerfully churned ballad, “Let’s Call it Love,” where a spent Tucker ended the song writhing on the stage floor.
Whether you were drawn to Sleater-Kinney because of what they stood for, who they were, or what they sounded like became immaterial. The crowd: the rocker crowd, the protester crowd, and the LGBT crowd was united in array of smiles, cheers and raised fists. That band, who were all women, whose guitar techs probably weren’t eunuchs, thrilled them all.
Set List: Sleater-Kinney @ Stage AE Pittsburgh 3.1.2015
The End of You
What’s Mine Is Yours
A New Wave
No Cities to Love
Light Rail Coyote
Words and Guitar
Bury Our Friends
One More Hour
Let’s Call It Love
Dig Me Out