Sleater-Kinney is a central band in the Girlbandgeek cannon. They embody all the elements of what I love in a band – powerful, emotional singing, harmony, innovative guitar parts, and urgent, explosive rhythms driven by Janet Weiss’ powerful drumming. The year was 1997, I was living on Hayes St. in San Francisco with my wife Dawn who was pregnant with our first child. I read an article in the SF Bay Guardian which convinced me that I would like Sleater-Kinney. I think I bought Dig Me Out without hearing it. I formed an immediate, strong connection with that album, which is certainly one of my all-time favorites by any band. I played it every day for a year. At work I’d plug my shitty earbuds into my Compaq laptop and pop Dig Me Out into the CD drive. I made a tape so I could play it in the car, you get the idea…
I had missed the Dig Me Out tour, but I was there with bells on for the Hot Rock tour, and pretty much every tour since then to the present day. I’ve seen them maybe 7 times so far. I’m not actually sure who my favorite band is now, but for about two decades I would unhesitatingly say that SK was my favorite band. They had a string of fantastic albums, and their live show was always so explosive, and guaranteed to transport me to my own sonic and spiritual fantasy island.
I do particularly love the “classic” period of Sleater-Kinney from 1997 to 2002. I love all the albums from those years, but the one I reach for most often is probably All Hands on the Bad One. I am a SK loyalist and think all their records have merit. Nevertheless, starting with The Woods and the following, the albums don’t elicit the same feeling of connection and excitement for me as the classic ones.
Anyway, let’s document a few impressions from this concert in November, 2019. Alex and I dined on pizza at a trendy restaurant he wanted to try in Piedmont. From there we head to the venue, the gorgeous Fox Theater in Oakland: one of my favorite venues in the Bay Area. The opening act was KAINA (Kaina Castillo). KAINA is a talented, young pop artist, blending elements of latin and funk. She was quite impressive.She had keyboards/bassist/drummer to accompany her, all quite good. Alex and I both liked the drummer a lot.
KAINA’s set ends, and soon Sleater-Kinney will take the stage. This will be my first time seeing the band with new drummer Angie Boylan, formerly of Aye Nako. Janet Weiss had rather suddenly announced her departure from the band a couple of months before the tour was to begin, citing differences with the current musical direction. I was pretty anxious about how they would sound without Janet’s supple and powerful drumming, but Boylan was up to the challenge. In addition to Boylan, and founding members Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, the lineup included Katie Harkin and Toko Yusuda providing additional guitars, keyboards and vocals.
I only made a few notes about the show. From opening number The Center Cannot Hold, they came out pretty much at full throttle, and did not let up. The new drummer Angie Boylan is fucking great. They played a satisfying set list of newer songs, as well as old favorites. I am a little chagrinned that they did not play my personal favorite live song which is Turn It On – my first Sleater-Kinney concert where Turn It On was not played! But it was a gorgeous and satisfying evening of rock and roll. I’m glad to see that Tucker, Brownstein and band have held on to their passion and ferocity, while exploring new possibilities.
For a similar experience, there is a good YouTube from this tour. Check it out: