Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

The New York Times Profiles All-Women Metal Cover Bands

Misstallica, Lez Zeppelin, Iron Maidens:  these are all cover bands of guitar-shredding rock n’roll women.  I had no idea that these bands existed, and it is definitely intriguing.  I’m maybe even more impressed that the New York Times covered them.


Here’s Lez Zeppelin covering “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”


July 25, 2011

Documentary of Raging Slab On Youtube

robsparreboom has posted a documentary about Raging Slab on Youtube.  It’s in 6 parts.  If you’ve never heard of Raging Slab, and you like the Black Crowes or Monster Magnet, you have to see it.  The Black Crowes once opened for Raging Slab, and some argue that RS was a huge influence on The Black Crowes.  Why am I posting this on Guitareste?  The guitarist for Raging Slab was the amazing Elyse Steinman.  She was really good at slide, and she talks about learning to play in the documentary.  Look up pictures of the band too; Steinman played this out-of-control guitar shaped like the United States.  So bad ass.

Here’s Part I of the documentary.

July 24, 2011

Concert Review: Wild Flag At The Subterranean

The temperature’s been in the high 90s all week in Chicago, with heat indexes in the triple digits. So it was hard to be enthusiastic about anything this week. But I couldn’t wait to see Wild Flag.

The Subterranean was cool when we arrived. The ac was cranked. But it didn’t take long for the small venue to fill up. The show was sold out, despite the fact that Wild Flag would be playing the next day at Wicker Park fest. Both openers were local bands, Radar Eyes and Mickey. Radar Eyes are earnest and charming garage rockers. The four piece put on an impressive performance. They had all the right elements: three part harmonies, a manic bass player, and a lead guitarist with some nice chops.

They were followed by the five piece Mickey — all decked out in glitter, paint, and leather jackets. The lead guitarist played a red Epiphone Casino, and wore a lame cape and scroungy dreaded grey fright wig. The front man jumped into the crowd several times, bopping around and sweating on people. The overall impression? It felt like a group of homeless guys grabbed some instruments out of a dumpster and decided to cover Kiss. They played a tight, fun set, and it will be interesting to see how this band develops over time.

A spiral staircase leads from the Subterranean’s green room to the stages. Fans started cheering and snapping photos as soon as they saw Janet Weiss, decked out in a sparkly black top and cut off jeans shorts, descend those stairs. Wild Flag is a strange commodity in this way. They still haven’t released a full studio album. But with two former members of Sleater-Kinney (drummer Janet Weiss and guitarist Carrie Brownstein), guitarist Mary Timony of Helium, and keyboard player Rebecca Cole of The Minders, Wild Flag had fans almost immediately after announcing they had formed. They were a buzz band at SXSW, and fans (me included) have been bothering them (via Facebook and Twitter) to tour more, play more shows, and record more music.

Expectations were high, and they didn’t disappoint. They began with the anthemic “Electric Band”; Weiss pounded out the opening beats, Timony singing and playing rhythm guitar while Brownstein and Cole traded melodies on guitar and keyboard. From the very beginning of the concert, Wild Flag gave a fun and energetic performance. Janet Weiss put her whole self into her drum-playing, leading the diverse group and keeping them together. Rebecca Cole provided backing harmonies while playing complicated keyboard parts, reminiscent of the great psychedelic bands of the 60s and 70s. Timony and Brownstein are both talented guitarists. Timony tapped away on her Jazzmaster, bouncing around the stage and singing her tunes with that distinctive, husky voice. Brownstein was as if the universe had taken the DNA of both Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry and fused them into female form; her singing was sometimes guttural, sometimes ethereal, and her guitar playing was infectious. She fingered away at her Gibson SG, playing three and four note melodies up and down the neck. She pinwheeled her arms. She dropped to the ground, writhing and kicking her legs, somehow still playing those distinctive melodies.

Because Wild Flag hasn’t released that much music, it’s difficult to write out a setlist. I know that they started with “Electric Band.” They followed that with what has become my favorite tune of theirs, although I do not know what it is called. I have seen it called “Short Version,” so let’s go with that for now. They played “Racehorse” and “Romance.” Before “Glass Tambourine,” Weiss asked that the crowd raise their arms at the appropriate time. “You’ll just know when,” she said. I’m pretty sure we would have figured it out, but Timony helped everyone out by giving a wink and raising her own arms. (If you see them soon, I’ll give you the heads up. Raise your arms during the a cappella section.) The thing that the struck me the most about them, more than their excellent playing — the entwining melodies, and multi-part vocals — is how often they smile at each other. They just look like they’re having so much fun.

It was hot at the Subterranean. The air-conditioning couldn’t keep up with all that body heat, all those sweaty, bouncing fans. For the most part, the band shrugged off the heat and played through the haze. But Brownstein did stop at one point. She thanked the fans, said she appreciated that there was a crowd. She said she was happy to be in “hot” Chicago, and that it was 63 degrees in Portland. She was wearing a salmon-colored blazer over her tank top, and she quipped (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “I’m not talking to you just to give us a break because of the heat.” A few seconds of silence, leaning into the mic and wiping her forehead. “I refuse to take off the blazer. Poor choice.” After standing there for several more seconds in front of the mic — “We don’t need a fucking break.” She spun toward her bandmates and started the next song.

After finishing their set, Wild Flag reascended those spiral steps. The fans responded with raucous cheering and floor-pounding. The band returned after several minutes. Brownstein’s blazer was gone. Timony approached the mic and asked the crowd, “Are you guys hot?” We answered with a resounding cheer of “YES!” She responded before starting the next song, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in all my life.” They played the Stones’ “Beast of Burden” with Timony on vocals, followed by Brownstein’s rendition of a Distillers tune.

And this is where Brownstein’s stage theatrics literally smacked me in the face. At the very end of the set, during the final chord, Brownstein kicked a can of PBR that was sitting on the stage. Still full, it rocketed into the crowd, smacking the

girl in front of me in the chin and me in the mouth. At the time, I didn’t fully realize what happened. I saw the kick, and then felt a tap as the can hit me, exploding cold beer all over my face and torso. There I was fulfilled by the concert, but now drenched, stinking of beer, with a throbbing lip. If the band had stunk, I might have been mad. But as it was, it felt like I had been touched by the spirit of rock n’ roll itself. A skunky, red-white-and-blue, painful spirit made of sharp metal and weighing about 12 oz. But the spirit of rock no-less.

July 23, 2011

Photos: Wild Flag At The Subterranean

I saw Wild Flag last night.  It must have been 100 degrees inside the Subterranean, despite the air conditioning.  But the women of Wild Flag didn’t let that stop them from performing a “blistering” set.  (Ok, sorry.  I had to go for the pun.)  There’s a lot to talk about, including the fact that I have a busted lip from a flying PBR can.  Yep, one of Carrie Brownstein’s signature kicks sent a projectile hurtling toward my face!

I’ll write up a short review of the concert a little later, but I wanted to get a few of the photos up.  To check out the full set, you can visit the new brand-spanking new Guitareste Flickr stream.

Here you are — enjoy!

Radar Eyes
Opening Band Radar Eyes



Mary Timony's Pedal Board

Mary Timony’s Pedal Board

Carrie Brownstein

Carrie Tunes Her Guitar

Mary Timony

Mary Timony, with Janet Weiss in the background

Janet Starts The Set

Janet Gets Things Started

Mary Timony Singing Electric Band

Wild Flag, with Mary Timony Singing Electric Band

Mary Timony

Rebecca, Mary, and Carrie (and Janet’s drums!)

Mary and Carrie

Mary and Carrie

Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein


Rebecca Cole

Rebecca Cole

Wild Flag

Janet Weiss

Janet Weiss

July 20, 2011

EMA Plays A Jag!

The evidence is mounting that all the cool kids play off-set body guitars.  I was surfing on over at EMA’s blog today.  Not only does she use wordpress, but she also plays a Jaguar and a Mustang.

And I found this Paste Magazine post courtesy of Feminist Music Geek’s Twitter Feed.  It’s a video of EMA and Zola Jesus covering Crimson and Clover.  Super fun.

July 19, 2011

Better Know A Guitareste

I was asked to talk a bit more about my own guitar playing, and about why I decided to learn how to play.  So here it goes!  I think I was always interested in learning.  I had a few guy friends try to teach me at different points in my teens and twenties, and playing the guitar seemed totally baffling.  In fact, I know at least once during one of these “mentoring” sessions, I held the guitar upside down, with the neck in my right hand.  My memory is vague here, but I think the boy who was teaching me guitar at the time said that was ok.  And while it is possible to play a right-handed guitar upside-down, I’m not sure why someone would learn that way on purpose.

I don’t remember why I decided to pull the trigger exactly.  But I’m lucky enough to live in Chicago.  And in Chicago, we have this amazing community of musicians called The Old Town School of Folk Music.

The Old Town School gives private lessons, but they also have group music classes.  Basically, a bunch of kids or teens or (in my case) adults get together in a room and learn to dance, sing, or play an instrument.  They also rent instruments, which was key for me at first.  I had been really shy of buying a guitar outright, convinced that I would not be able to learn how to play.  So I rented a guitar and enrolled in what they call the “core guitar” curriculum at the Old Town School.

I learned the basics that way, in a group setting.  We literally started with how to hold the guitar.  We learned the names of the strings.  We learned all the basic open chords:  D,E,A,C, G, B7,D7, and an “easy” version of F using the top three strings.  We learned how to follow a chord map.  For any of you that don’t know how to play the guitar, that is just a sheet of lyrics with the corresponding chord names written over the places in the lyrics where you make the changes.

In the OTS core program, you can learn basic chords and strumming, barre chords, finger-picking, how to read guitar tablature, and some basic music theory and musicianship.  I did all of those classes, and then began playing in some ensembles.  The OTS ensembles are a bit like playing in a really big cover band.  In them, you can learn to play songs by a wide variety of artist:  PJ Harvey, Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Elvis Costello, Television, Sonic Youth.  The list goes on.  And you learn to play with other instruments.  There are usually a boatload of guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, a singer.  You get the idea.

So I’ve been playing for about three years at this point.  And I’m what most people, I think, would consider an intermediate player.  My big challenges now are learning to play lead guitar parts.  And because I learned with a group, and always with music in front of me, I’m just starting now to learn songs by ear.

I’m going to write some more posts about playing lead and playing by ear in the future.  I also plan on writing a few on how to choose a guitar, how to get started playing, and where to find material.  I’m open to more suggestions as well, so if you’ve got ’em, shoot them over to me by email at guitareste at gmail dot com.  Until then, just know if you’re right handed, the guitar neck goes in your left hand.  😉

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July 18, 2011

EMA Article In The Chicago Tribune

The Tribune posted an article about Erika Anderson, aka EMA late last week.  There are a few good quotes about women and music.  It’s definitely worth a read.

“What prompted me to pick up a guitar when I was young, was seeing Courtney Love and her band Hole, on MTV in the ’90s,” explains Anderson. “She was the first woman I saw in the mass media — and that had an impact — it was a revelation: ‘I can play guitar!'”

July 13, 2011

Pitchfork Is This Weekend. Are You Going?

Ok, I have a confession.  I quit going to Pitchfork two years ago when the price went to $40 a day.  It’s always blisteringly hot that weekend, and I just think that $120 dollars is too much to pay for a weekend of music.  But I am old and curmudgeonly.  So the fact that it will be 95 degrees with 75% humidity in Chicago all day on Saturday and Sunday shouldn’t keep you from going to Pitchfork.  You are young, beautiful, and well-hydrated, right?  Your feet don’t hurt after twenty minutes of standing in one place.  Or at the very least, you are still cool enough that you can pretend that your feet don’t hurt.  That means you should definitely go see EMA, Neko Case, tUnE-yArDs, and Superchunk.  And then send me the pictures.  Because I’m going to stay in my apartment, pet my dog, eat popsicles, and watch rock documentaries on bio.

July 6, 2011

Warpaint Concert Posted By Kekke466

Really good quality concert video of Warpaint at the Rock Werchter 2011.  From what I can tell, it’s their entire performance.  Here’s the first song.

July 5, 2011

Jana Hunter Interview

photo via flickr by Derek Webber

My go-to guitar song right now is “A Dog’s Dick” by Lower Dens.  The dueling guitar runs make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck every single time I listen to that lovely tune with the funny name.  Jana Hunter plays one of those lovely guitars.  She also provides the sultry voice with the slightly dead-pan delivery that makes Lower Dens album Twin-Hand Movement so incredibly appealing.  Before her work with Lower Dens, Hunter produced two full-length solo albums, two EPs, and a split album with Devendra Banhart.  She strikes me as a wonderfully brilliant weirdo.  (I mean that in a good way.)  And I was pleased to snag her for an email interview.

When did you begin playing and why?

I learned violin first and then guitar. I learned how to play and I sang at night on my bike, 13 or 14. I learned so I could do what I am doing right now, write music and not have a day job. So I could master pop music and attempt to explore my true ear and self, stay true to my ideals and gut. to relate feeling in a means other than talking or affecting. So I could have the best band in the world.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

Acoustic, made of wood and metal. I bought it with my own money.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  (I’ve seen video of you playing a Mustang…) What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

I like stuff that has a lot of sand in it and color. I have a Music Master (the Mustang), blue. Die kleinen blauen. Holiest Grail, Frequency Analyzer, Ibanez Super Tank Chorus, Line 6 DL$, Boss RC-20 , Polish Warbler, Gibson Firestarter, Singer, Peavey Bandit.

What is your songwriting process like?

My writing process is dark and sweaty. All night droning into a cut up plastic soda bottle tied to a mic in the smallest room of the house without air-conditioning. There are drugs, there are cigarettes and there are pedals. The cats sleep. There is a trip to the 7-11. Or in the attic with bald overhead lighting and unmoved-in look hunched over it all. Yellow note pad, orange crackers, orange soda (the band sounds like michael jackson Thriller right now.) blue tobacco pouch.

What are you working on right now?

I am writing music with the band for a new Lower Dens record. We added people and instruments to the line up. I am working on a thematic arch. The trajectory of Lower Dens records will express this theme in one way or another.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

Ray Johnson, Arthur Bates, Tim and Eric, Cass McCombs, Spencer Kingman, Matteah Baim, Mordack, Indian Jewelry, Penderecki, Mishima, Kurzweil. They do what they want.

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