We missed this charming, crappy Todd P joint, especially since so many other clubs have closed of late. Welcome back! Vulture has a behind-the-scenes rundown of Wednesday’s show:
Market Hotel still shows glimpses of the shithole it once was, mostly in the sense that it’s a work in progress. The bathrooms are surprisingly clean, considering what they used to look like, even if there are signs excusing the “temporary privacy solution” of a half-finished carpentry job. As Weiss, Brownstein, singer/guitarist Corin Tucker, and the week’s special guest Fred Armisen sound-check the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster,” a young employee sweeps bits of construction off the floor. (The same floor would be bouncing hours later, during a truly glorious rendition of “Words and Guitar.”) At one point, it looks like the band have turned on a fog machine, but it’s actually just dust. Coats are on and windows are open, which means that the fans who started lining up downstairs before noon can hear everything. Which is good because they’re probably not getting in. This place holds a few hundred at best — a steep decline from the four midsize New York venues S-K played the four preceding nights (Kings Theatre, Terminal 5, Irving Plaza, and Music Hall of Williamsburg).
The prevailing mood at sound check is low-energy, especially Brownstein, who’s sick. When she shows up onstage later that night in a “Whorin’ for Corin” T-shirt she had made so Tucker wouldn’t feel left out about those homemade Weiss shirts, Brownstein is on. By the second song, No Cities to Love single “Bury Our Friends,” she’d already started with the Pete Townshend windmill guitar-strumming. By “Rock Lobster” in the encore, she’s perched atop her amp, playing out toward the subway platform, where trains filter in and out every few minutes. Many vantage points in the room afford the surreal experience of watching a band tear through a punishing chorus at the exact moment when a train comes hurtling by; seeing this makes you understand why someone would spend six years trying to make this place work, legally speaking.
Of course, there’s the problem of those pillars. Tucker knows the make and model well — they remind her of the modest spaces her band used to play in the ’90s in her native Pacific Northwest. Loving an ugly venue is a rite of passage for a certain kind of music fan — one who is likely no stranger to the music of Sleater-Kinney — but there’s some other strand of defiance at play here. Toward the end of the show, Tucker* explains that when S-K used to play rooms like this, they felt they had to prove themselves. This year, they came back, but they never lost that underdog feeling. They were made to feel like outliers after graduating to a national stage in the late ’90s — you know, the novelty of “the girl band” they’d poke fun at on “You’re No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun” — but the juxtaposition was enthralling, to women-rock fans, at least, because Sleater-Kinney had somehow always sounded like the biggest band in the world. This aesthetic is as much about them wanting to really make noise as it is their fascination with (and subversion of) classic-rock mythology. They’re as close to mainstream success now as they’ve ever been, but there’s a sense of staying true to who they were that prevails; Weiss, most vocally, has shared her opposition to playing big festivals and allowing their songs to be used in commercials. The pillars are just one small, familiar cross to bear.
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