Friday, July 21, 2017
Live review: Warpaint at Williamsburg Hall of Music, July 18, 2017
That's my way of telling you that sometimes I'm surprised at how much I love Warpaint.
But, seriously, I love Warpaint.
Warpaint is the sheen and gloss of the interwoven guitar work of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman over top of one of the most solid rhythm sections going. Jenny Lee Lindberg plays intricate Jah Wobble bass grooves that lock down hard with Stella Mozgawa's stellar timekeeping. "Timekeeping" does not imply a Charlie Watts laid-back-in-the-pocket approach, mind you. Try and casually tap along with this:
You got lost, didn't you?
Stella Mozgawa can play drums in circles around us all, but she can also settle into the deepest darkest groove with Lindberg. Sometimes, like in "Keep It Healthy," she does both.
And then there are the vocal harmonies. Jesus, the vocal harmonies....
I like Warpaint best when they work inside that dark chamber of chill. But they have a whole 'nother side too, what the Mekons called "a dance band on the edge of time."
Tuesday night at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg (in a FREE show, no less) all sides of the band were on glorious display.
For fans like me, who like the denser/deeper excursions into the dark groove, Warpaint did more than half their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse. "Krimson" was particularly sublime.
And, moving away from that EP, "Keep It Healthy," "Love is to Die" and "The Stall" were all in that same neighborhood where the early Cure get together with Massive Attack in a trance-like swirl of stunning.
Conversely, the kids who came to Brooklyn to dance got "New Song," "Heads Up," and "Dre" from the most recent album and "Disco//Very" from the self-titled album.
Through it all -- whether purveying a dark trance, a joyful dance, or both -- the formula was simple, yet spot-on: the alchemy of Lindberg and Mozgawa's nimble, yet muscular, rhythms blended with Wayman's and Kokal's chiming, jangling guitars. I'm a drummer, so my rhythm-section prejudice is alive and well. I'm pretty fixated on this one. Jenny Lee Lindberg is a blast to watch onstage; she's either in a closed-eyed dance/groove or smiling and laughing with the ever-perfect Mozgawa. But this whole band conveys an unremitting in-the-moment "Yaaaaaassssssss!"-filled joy onstage that is a rarity to watch. Nothing bugs me more than a band that mails it in. Too many bands mail it in.
Warpaint does not mail it in.
If I have one regret, it's that they didn't play this one in Brooklyn:
For my money, it's their finest moment -- from the brilliant weirdness of Stella Mozgawa's drag on the initial groove to the way it all comes together into that "She said" final verse. I was sorry to see them omit it from the set.
But that's my uber-fan pickiness. I'm really happy that I made it to this particular show. Last October, I saw Warpaint at Union Transfer in Philly and they blew me away that night as well (including a sublime "No Way Out"). I was psyched to see that their upcoming tour opening for Depeche Mode (in monstrosity venues all over our fine land... no thanks) was taking a few breaks to allow for headlining Warpaint gigs in places like my home base of Philly. And then... I realized I am going to be out of town when they play Philly. Damn.... So this one was extra special.
There's a great account of the Brooklyn gig at Brooklyn Vegan, along with a set list and an array of stunning photos from photographer Ebru Yildiz that make me glad I didn't bother with crappy iPhone pics.
Warpaint are on a roll.