Wild Flag weaves its parts together

By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / March 10, 2011

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It’s not often that a band sells out a club so long before its first record comes into existence that the audience wouldn’t have heard a note of music before buying up all the tickets. That was the scene on Monday night when Wild Flag came to the Brighton Music Hall.

Granted, Wild Flag is hardly unknown in the strictest sense. Its members — Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Helium frontwoman Mary Timony, and Minders keyboardist Rebecca Cole — come with history, even if the band doesn’t. Even so, the performance was primarily about discovering what Wild Flag was all about.

At first, anyway. The rock power and melodic joy of the opening one-two punch of “Endless Talk’’ and “Arabesque’’ were enough to turn simple attendees into fans. “Arabesque’’ in particular found Timony and Brownstein’s guitars fusing into a single heavy chord, with a lightness that made it float.

Brownstein largely played snaky lines around Timony’s bassy rhythm guitar, a dynamic familiar to Sleater-Kinney fans. But there were elements that pointed to an identity of Wild Flag’s own. The terrific lift of “Short Version’’ came in part from Timony’s easygoing two-handed tapping, while Cole and Weiss harmonized on the psych-pop refrain of “Glass Tambourine’’ right before a trippy and overwhelming acid-rock comedown.

And for anyone who might have forgotten, Weiss served up reminder after reminder of what a powerhouse drummer she is. Nowhere was it more evident than in “Racehorse,’’ where she subtly toyed with the pattern by unexpectedly adding or dropping hits and seamlessly quieting things down. With Brownstein’s galloping lead, Timony’s grunting rhythm, and Cole’s keyboards falling somewhere between “Highway Star’’ and “Roadrunner,’’ the song showed Wild Flag already coalescing into a potent force. Referring to the other venues the band has played, Brownstein said, “The stage is way too big for us.’’ She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Local trio Shepherdess tempered its sometimes sweet material with an indie rock attack to winning effect. Austin duo YellowFever was more melodically and rhythmically fragmented, like a car that couldn’t find a gear, and served as a reminder that being self-consciously “interesting’’ is no guarantee against being boring.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at


With Shepherdess and YellowFever

At: Brighton Music Hall, Monday