If there was one thought that kept running through my mind at the Wild Flag concert on Thursday night at the Metro, it was this: this is the life force. I'd been feeling a bit beat going into the evening, if not quite ready to hang up my rock & roll shoes for the night at least feeling like maybe propping them up on something. By the time the show was over I was exhilarated, carried out of the hall on a high, aching feet forgotten. My overwhelming feeling was, now that keeps you young.
It took them a little while to get warmed up. I could actually feel the moment they locked in, when Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony faced off in a guitar duel that crested and broke in a massive, glorious explosion of noise. It is in moments like this that live music becomes an almost physical thing.
At times Brownstein and Timony just broke out beaming, with smiles that proclaimed, "This is exactly what I wanted to do with my life". Those looks carried even more meaning because, by their own testimony, there were years when they weren't sure whether playing rock & roll was even the way their lives were going to go.
What's great about the band, vets all, is how they embody the amateurish joy of garage-y rock & roll whilst being such hot players. It's a deeply satisfying textural contrast, that guitar crunch mixed with a pop sensibility and what my friend Eileen called the "girly-girl" harmonies of drummer Janet Weiss and keys player Rebecca Cole. "Glass Tambourine" blew me away, becoming live a chance for the band to stretch out and cut loose, twin guitars attacking, a suite of tension and release, dirty feedback and clean precision. "Racehorse" flattened me.
Carrie Brownstein is a rock & roll hero, master of every rock & roll move. Wearing a red blouse over a black bra, she wielded her axe like Excalibur, sending out waves of power chords. She kicked, she windmilled, she got off on the sensual waves of sound. During one song she eyed the middle distance with a glint I could see even from back in the hall, like a woman facing down her worst fears...or spotting her main chance. Mary Timony's guitar was precision amidst the hurricane. Rebecca Cole's keys could scorch the earth, color the music psychedelic or be church-organ grand. As for Janet Weiss, we've long known she's one of the most galvanic drummers out there today, and as a former drummer myself it was a treat for me to watch her pound out those mighty tom rolls.
They closed with a series of cover. As the opening chords of Television's "See No Evil" rang out I remembered how much I loved "Marquee Moon" during the years I was first falling in love with music. They ended the night with Carrie hanging off the mic stand like Iggy Pop, belting out a Fugazi cover. (I'm indebted to my friend Jesse, who I ran into on the way out, for placing that one for me: I knew I'd heard the tune before.)
When they kicked into the sheer fun of the Ramones' version of "Do You Wanna Dance?", a roomful of rock & roll hearts pogoed up and down, propelled by the pulse of the four women on stage whose every move sent out a quite basic yet life-enhancing message: I love rock & roll.