The ‘Portlandia’ effect: Wild Flag rocks Webster Hall in NYC

Wild Flag at Webster Hall in New York City on April 1, 2012. From left, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein. (Photos 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Wild Flag is an all-female supergroup whose members are drawn from three ’90s bands — Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders. But thanks to her incredible stage presence (and her seeming ubiquity as a result of her cult hit cable TV show “Portlandia”)  guitarist Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), was the one who really owned the stage at Webster Hall in Manhattan on April Fool’s Day.

Carrie Brownstein, with Janet Weiss on drums.

Brownstein shares lead vocals in Wild Flad with Mary Timony (the Lolita-esque former frontwoman of Helium). But only Brownstein behaved like a rock star onstage. She pranced, jumped and stretched like a cat (not much purring, though, as her vocal delivery was aggressive) throughout the band’s tight, well-paced set. Despite being encumbered by her guitar for most of the evening, Brownstein, with her lithe figure, managed to evoke Mick Jagger with her moves.

That’s not to say that the other three were slacking. Timony, keyboard player Rebecca Cole (The Minders) and drummer Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney) each held up their end of the bargain quite well.

Wild Flag

It didn’t take Wild Flag long to run through its repertoire. The band has released just one album, whose songs, however spectacular in recorded form, sound even better live. We were having too much fun listening and watching to keep a set list, but it didn’t appear that the band offered any new or unrecorded tunes. And tunes from band members’ previous bands were off limits, too. (Though it would have been delicious to hear them tackle Sleater-Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Mary Timony,” given her presence in Wild Flag.

Carrie Brownstein performs Fugazi's "Margin Walker."

Wild Flag treated the audience to an encore that dipped into rock ‘n roll history with three covers.

They kicked off with the 1978 Rolling Stones tune “Beast of Burden,” turning surprising to Timony for the lead vocals. (Perhaps it was a decision to play against type, but we still felt the song would have been much better with Brownstein on the vocal.)

Next came the rock ‘n roll chestnut “Do You Wanna Dance,” written by Bobby Freeman and released by him in 1958. While the song’s been recorded by many bands, including the Beach Boys, Wild Flag offered a pretty faithful copy of the Ramones’ take on the bouncy tune.

For the last tune, Brownstein put down her guitar and served up a song that she said “I don’t know how many of you will know.” She proceeded to knock us out with a great, sexy version of Fugazi’s “Margin Walker,” which was released in 1989.

Hospitality opened the evening with an energetic set.

Hospitality at Webster Hall

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