I’m no theological scholar but I don’t recall anything from my days growing up in Sunday School about whether or not God likes rock and roll. I am pretty sure, however, that persons of virtually every form of organized religion would tell you that God loves His people.
This optimistic belief seemed evident on Tuesday, April 21, as the good Lord saw fit to not rain on His children for what seemed like the first time since Spring began as they made their way into the Tabernacle to see something of a miracle in its own right: Sleater-Kinney’s return to the stage after a hiatus that began back in 2007.
It had been over a decade since the trio from Spokane, Washington played for Atlantans and the jubilant crowd let them know how much they had been missed to the degree that guitarist Carrie Brownstein suggested that we were the best audience they had seen on tour. Whether or not this was a genuine sentiment didn’t really seem to matter to the girls on the front row who were probably half the age of the band members. Nor did it matter to the dudes who had probably never heard of the riot girl scene or its political leanings, yet still banged their heads like they were trying to get them to snap off of their necks. No one in attendance was particularly interested in having their enthusiasm commended. We were there to drown in punk rock – to have our hearts beat in our chests with the rhythm of Janet Weiss’s kick drum; to witness how perfectly Corin Tucker’s powerful vibrato transfers from the vinyl to the stage.
Having never had the opportunity to see the band live myself, I was a bit nervous at first that I wouldn’t get to witness the kinetic spectacle that I had heard a Sleater-Kinney performance was. Perhaps some magic had faded during period of their disbandment or their chemistry would seem contrived. Fortunately my concerns were unfounded.
The show, which featured songs ranging from all over their discography, seemed to build on itself like a tidal wave. Hanging in the backdrop was a massive scrim with what appeared to be a plume of smoke and ash printed on it. Electric fans would sporadically blow flaps of fabric sewn to the front of it skyward, making it appear as though S-K were playing in the mouth of a volcano mid-eruption. The show sounded and felt much the same way. Every song seemed louder than the one that came before.
Brownstein went from doing high kicks to writhing on the floor to knocking over mic stands to standing atop the drum kit as they played their final songs and brought their performance to a spectacular crescendo, just before they sent everyone on their way with a peppy rendition of the categorically tongue-in-cheek “Modern Girl” from their 2005 album The Woods. From the start of the song, you could tell that this was where the show was going to end. They would get back on their bus, and we would go home feeling saddened that something we’d all waited so long for had come to an end – this time for who knows how long, but they were going to make us walk out of the building onto a still unprecipitated-on Luckie Street with a smile on our faces just to spite our soon-to-be sulking hearts.
In a recent interview, Brownstein stated that she and her bandmates had always referred to their hiatus as just that. Talk of definitive break ups and rumors of “reunion tours” be damned. There were still blank pages at the end of the Sleater-Kinney story. I like to think that what they had created together was simply too good to allow it to justifiably disappear from the world completely, and because God theoretically loves us, He kept our indie-punk queens from vanishing into the air like volcano smoke belched from the earth. Or maybe He just likes rock and roll…