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After years of band hopping, inter-mingling, side projects, supporting each other’s past bands, this raucous and untamed quartet finally grouped and settled on what is now known as ‘Wild Flag’, a name derived from tribute to their personalities, ‘Wild. Also: flaggy’. It’s hard to imagine that any of their previous endeavours could live up to the way this particular line up from Portland/Washington DC portray themselves onstage; raw, edgy, feisty and highly captivating. There formation came about from knowing each other’s histories, crossing paths several times in their rock n roll journey having played in bands such as Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders, eventually prompting their unification, being announced on enigmatic front woman, Carrie Brownstein’s blog:

“Chemistry cannot be manufactured or forced, so WILD FLAG was not a sure thing, it was a ‘maybe,’ a ‘possibility.’ But after a handful of practice sessions, spread out over a period of months, I think we all realized that we could be greater than the sum of our parts, not four disparate puzzle pieces trying to make sense of the other, but a cohesive and dynamic whole.”

The fact that they are now in their 30s and 40s has not deterred them one bit, laughing at the conservative perceptions that women of that age should have, “found salvation in white picket fence and kids,” as Brownstein so audaciously puts. Certain women are born for the limelight, born to rock n roll, and these four are the epitome of that statement. Tonight’s show in Sound Control, Manchester, falls roughly in the middle of a huge tour that dates back to the end of October in America and will finalise at the end of April, with dates across America, Europe, and Australia so boldly planned inbetween for a band that only released their debut album last September. There was an air of anticipation about this gig, almost filling instantly from the moment the doors opened. The audience were showered in a layer of thick fog that graced the stage, percolating across those of us that braved the front few rows. The four ladies nonchalantly took to the stage almost unnoticed before launching into their first track. The crowd were rather subdued at first, as if they were feeling the band out before making an opinion, but by the end of the show they were certainly blown away in a frenzy of fiery rock n roll with a twist.

Carrie Brownstein’s guitar and voice was energetic and passionate, displaying the sort of raw vocal that borders on the punk genre. She shares the singing and lead guitar playing with Mary Timony, another accomplished player in her own right but slightly different to Brownstein. However, both play ensnaring riffs that really grab the attention. This alternation continued throughout the gig, relinquishing any predictability we might have naively conceived. Whereas Brownstein masters the powerful, screaming rock voice, Timony has a softer tone to her qualities, but that’s not to say that they both don’t occasionally merge into each other’s specialities, which was quite alluring at times. With Brownstein and Timony bouncing off each other’s energy, working in perfect synergy, the support section can be forgiven to be lost, which in this case is not the case.

Rebecca Cole plays the keyboard in such a way that the absence of a bass player is forgotten. Janet Weiss beats the drums to loud assurance that unifies the link between the lead and the support, allowing the two axe women to cut loose with their high kicks, wind milling, playing up close together, falling to the floor and playing like women possessed by the devil, culminating in holding guitars up high and proud, saluting their own goblets of rock.

Throughout the show they played songs off their self titled debut album, with a few newer ones thrown into the mix. Although there was nothing highly original about ‘Wild Flag’, they play to their strengths with great authority and timing, blending a combination of raw rock n roll with shades of punk, and even bordering on the psychedelic in parts. They don’t try to be anything but good old fashioned, exciting guitar based rock, with some delicious riffs thrown in, which sometimes is just the best form of attack for new bands, keeping it simple, but keeping it appealing. Wild Flag’ gave an extremely impressive account of themselves and the confidence shown in this long haul tour is testament to the belief and following they have. Having hopped, skipped and jumped throughout bands in their past, surely this time they can stick together and create something a little magical that could end up going down in rock folklore.

Review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by Matt Johnston

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