Wild Flag @ GAMH, 11/4/11
Photos by: Anna Gazdowicz

So-called “supergroups” either come and go (remember Temple of the Dog?), or form lasting impressions on the face of rock history, like Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), Cream, Journey, the Foo Fighters, and so on. Will Wild Flag — comprised of Mary Timony, Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Rebecca Cole — go down as a just a flash in the pan for these seasoned indie songstresses, fueled by dueling egos? Or will they continue to make powerful records like this year’s self-titled debut?

Fingers crossed for the latter.

The well-hyped fab four came to San Francisco last weekend and played a couple of energetic shows at the Great American Music Hall. Expectations were high, giving the pedigree of the band members, and they certainly delivered, but what made the most lasting impression is the sheer joy the band seemed to have while playing together. They were clearly having a lot of fun and it rubbed off on to the crowd.

Handing off lead vocals between guitarists Timony and Brownstein, Wild Flag’s songs tend to go in one of two directions — cutthroat rock and roll with elements of new wave under the influence of Brownstein, or Timony’s signature proggy yet dreamy noodling — and are all held together with Weiss’ expert timekeeping and Cole’s fuzzed-out organ rhythms. Neither song structure are of the passive, hand-holding ilk — Brownstein’s stage presence has the kind of flair that is just short of scissor kicks and windmills. Timony on the other hand goes trance-like, eyes rolled back, seemingly channeling some higher power as she taps the fingerboard. Similarly, Brownstein’s voice is punchy and harsh, while Timony’s pipes are soft and breathy. The whole shebang was %&#@-ing rad to watch, to say the least.

As seemingly different as the two musicians’ styles are, they totally compliment one another to form a complete package, while neither influence overpowers the other. At one point, the girls joked about covering “Rainbow Connection” from the 1979 muppet masterpiece, The Muppet Movie, in which Kermit the Frog strums a banjo on the banks of a bayou and laments the bum rap of miracles and dreams. All cheese aside, the little green Judy Garland had a good point, and even though the song was (sadly) not played, Wild Flag indeed found that Rainbow Connection — in this case, between the reality of straightforward rock a-la Carrie Brownstein and and the magical psychedelia of Mary Timony. The result? Anything but a footnote in rock and roll obscurity. We should be seeing more from them in the future.

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