Can you trust a band whose leader stole his name from the King and who call themselves the Imposters? The answer is a resounding yes. Elvis Costello & The Imposters brought their “Just Trust” tour to the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., for two nights of some of his greatest hits and hidden gems. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there, and his aim was true.
Encased in a thunderdome of translucent screens, Moon Duo offers a feast for eyes as well as ears. Here in Paris’ cosy Petit Bain nightclub, the experience for the spectator is less like inspecting an objet d’art carefully placed beneath a protective glass than witnessing a flower bulb unfurl within a pot of jasmine tea.
Projected onto those screens, an elaborate light show of strobing kaleidoscopes and geometric shapes dances in front of the players, while inflating their shadows to ghostly effect. The emphasis on light should not be lost on the observer, for the band’s latest album, Stars Are The Light (Sacred Bones), invites fans into brighter, more luminous tones. Previous releases, especially the two volumes of 2017’s Occult Architecture, were dark, monotone, crunchy dirges bordering on psychedelic goth—but admittedly of breathtaking beauty. And yet if the new LP is sunnier and synthier than anything the group has done before, it is no less trippy.
Guitarist Ripley Johnson’s solos ripple with reverb, providing added bounce to “Flying” and “The World And The Sun.” Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada’s vocals are airy and euphoric throughout. They have crafted a live experience that bubbles with energy and exhales before the coughing sets in.
The group closes the evening with a playful rendition of “Jukebox Babe,” a cover of ’70s synth-punk duo Suicide, the band that provided a template for MD’s sound. A perfectly balanced brew of punk, new wave and psych rock, the Duo is consistently silky where Suicide is occasionally clunky.
Recommended drug pairing: a dose of Lucy dropped into a pot of Oolong.
The revamped Sleater-Kinney is on the road supporting the excellent new The Center Won’t Hold (Mom + Pop). While we do miss the mighty Janet, the live five pierce is a music machine. Read our review of S-K’s Philly gig from four nights prior to this show at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski went for rock ‘n’ roll fun on the last day of Rocktober.
Like a lot of fans who were totally onboard for Sleater-Kinney’s triumphant return with No Cities To Love in 2015 but somewhat alienated by this year’s The Center Won’t Hold (with its flashy St. Vincent production) and the subsequent desertion of drummer Janet Weiss, I was less enthusiastic about seeing the band this time around.
On the other hand, I’ve been game to check out whatever Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein create, together or apart, and I’ve found something to dig about every one of their projects, from the Corin Tucker Band and Filthy Friends to Wild Flag, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, the Spells and Portlandia. If nothing else, I knew they’d play the hell out of anything from the albums I’ve loved and lived with for so many years.
I needn’t have worried: As great as it was to rock out to eternal thrillers like “Words And Guitar,” “Dig Me Out,” “All Hands On The Bad One,” “Modern Girl,” “Entertain,” “Bury Our Friends” and “Price Tag” at the Fillmore, the real reward was hearing Tucker and Brownstein rip through the new material that excited them enough to blow up their modus operandi, their longtime lineup and any baggage that fans and critics may have brought with us.
“Bad Dance,” my favorite The Center Won’t Hold track, was straight-up electrifying; “The Dog/The Body” had me gasping for breath; “Hurry On Home,” the title track and “The Future Is Here” felt like tunes I’ve known forever and loved without realizing it, rather than titles off an album I should’ve spent more time trying to absorb.
That’s one of the downsides of the all-you-care-to-hear musical trough in which we traffic; there’s always so many songs to check out, to revisit, to luxuriate in, to listen perfunctorily to, and never enough time to spend with art that’s harder to digest. But Sleater-Kinney made sure that there was plenty of time for that by allowing The Center Won’t Hold to take up space onstage; the 28-song set included all 11 from the record, as well as post-release stand-alone single “Animal,” which offered the drama we’ve been craving without caving in to expectations or feasting on nostalgia.
Even with the expansion of synths and electronic drums, the heart of the show was the two frontwomen’s interlocking guitars and complementary vocal styles. While they may not sing circles around each other much anymore, or physically face off as often (although maybe that was due to the warm kombucha everyone but Brownstein consumed before the show), they were undeniably riding the same wave. Whether it was Brownstein taking the lead with teeth clenched and right arm windmilling or Tucker wielding her power-tool vibrato while holding down the low end—or even the numbers with four guitars going at once—they amply proved that experimenting with form has only added to their arsenal.
But it was “Broken,” with zero guitars—just Tucker‘s gut-punch vocals and Brownstein’s no-nonsense keyboard—that was the night’s beating, bleeding heart, giving voice to the gratitude and nausea so many of us felt when Christine Blasey Ford told her truth at tremendous personal cost and it changed nothing.
Doing most of the speaking (maybe chalk that up to the kombucha incident as well), Brownstein underscored the importance of participation—politically, personally and artistically—and wondered what it would be like if we could show up for one another in more ways. If everyone in the room made even a small effort to show up for their friends, city and community the way Sleater-Kinney showed up for an audience of die-hards and skeptics, it could change absolutely everything.
So what’s stopping us?
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich
The Sea.Hear.Now Festival kicked off fall at the Jersey Shore for the second straight year, serving up two days’ worth of music, art, surfing, food and sustainability in Asbury Park. Dave Matthews and the Lumineers were the headliners, while the likes of Sharon Van Etten, the B-52s, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys and Rainbow Kitten Surprise joined in on the rock action. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich had fun in the sun.