The only thing better than having your favourite band play for an hour and a half on your birthday is having your girlfriend surprise you with tickets for the show, shortly after waking. This September, both of these happened to me.
She had been commanding me for weeks not to make plans for that night and I agreed, because I’m a sucker for a good surprise and besides, my last few birthdays had sucked, so I thought maybe by leaving it in somebody else’s hands, I might be able to coax something good out of the day.
Five hours later, I found myself rocketing toward Seattle in a Chrysler LeBaron, hopped to the roof on sugar and high with the promise of a hot night of rockin’. We stopped for Red Bull across the border; we stopped for Taco Bell, and when we hit Seattle we stopped for beer. Only then we were ready to face the gale-force phenomenon known as Sleater-Kinney.
There are those skeptics that said that S-K had mellowed, that Corin’s baby had removed the fire from her, that the band had lost their edge. I would not only like to proclaim those nay-sayers wrong, I would like to call them out into the parking lot so I can boot-fuck them old-skool style for 90 minutes while a boombox plays One Beat at max volume, just to give them a crystal-clear image of what the show was like.
Because they hit that hard. Playing almost all of the songs off of One Beat, plus assorted tracks off every album but their first, they lost nothing from performances of previous years. Carrie still did her super rock-kicks; Corin still screamed loud and heart-breakingly enough to tear the world in half; and Janet still beat the drums with intensity enough to make John Bonham sound like a church-bound Hammond organ set to bossanova on the slowest setting.
The fans refused to leave and S-K came back for a second encore (for the first time on this tour), belting out a cover of my favourite B-52’s song (“Private Idaho”), continuing with possibly my favourite of their songs (“Good Things”) and finishing things with maybe my second favourite song (“Little Babies”). Not a bad birthday present, all in all.
I stumbled into the night with an ear to ear grin permanently etched on my face, buoyed for the long drive home by the knowledge that sometimes, even when you think it’s impossible for bands to continually top themselves, they can still manage it for six albums, seven years or one amazing fucking night.