Heading to the Danforth Music Hall on Monday night I was excited to finally see the four kickass ladies that make up Warpaint pump out the songs that have frequented my mind and lessened my hearing for many years. However, I have to admit that I was also a little apprehensive that I had perhaps too high expectations of the show. While earlier material like the 2008 Exquisite Corpse EP (mixed by ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante), and debut studio album The Fool are rock solid beginning to end, tracks like “New Song” off Heads Up, which was released last month, convey an entirely different vibe heavily devoted to its “dance-ability.”
Opening up the evening was the lesser known indie, experimental trio Facial. Even though they were the only band on the bill before Warpaint to take the stage, the venue remained the emptiest I have ever seen it for the majority of Facial’s set. To be honest, it just didn’t really seem like those who were there knew anything about them. Despite any real enthusiasm from the crowd, the three admirably portrayed a sense of not really giving a fuck. They continuously switched instruments, all completely capable in each role, and they looked like they were having a seriously good time on their own. I think it is fair to say that given their own space and fans, Facial would put on a wicked show.
By the time Warpaint took the stage, the venue was full of bodies and excited energy. Touring for their pop-driven, and more accessible, third studio album Heads Up, one might expect (as I did) that their live performance would stray far from the spacey, jam-oriented songs that characterize what are, in my opinion, their best sounds. Luckily they proved me wrong from the get-go, opening with the relatively unknown “No Way Out,” a single that is not on any of their albums, but still channels their classic, groovy, drawn-out and riff-driven ambience.
The majority of the set was comprised of material from their first and second albums, The Fool and Warpaint, respectively. Satisfying their most committed fans and new fans alike, the four transitioned seamlessly between tracks like “The Stall,” “Elephants,” and “Love Is to Die,” sounding comfortable with the diversity of their discography.
Bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa kind of kept in the dark, (literally and figuratively – they kept to the back of the stage and out of the spotlights), and for the first time I got the impression that the band was lead by guitarist Emily Kokal. Consistently throughout the night, much of the focus and attention was solely on Kokal herself, rather than on the band as a cohesive unit. Kokal danced around stage, toyed with the photographers, and played lead guitar for almost every song, leaving only a few tracks for guitarist Theresa Wayman to sing on her own. It was a bit surprising given the fact that the four often seem like inseparable parts of one unit. However, all members seemed content where they were for the evening.
Towards the end of the set came the crowd favourite “Disco//Very,” and at the height of the pretty mild-tempered evening, the four left the stage to riotous cheers. After a short wait, they returned with “So Good,” “Intro,” and “Keep It Healthy.” While it was not a mind-blowing encore by any means, the evening in and of itself was entertaining. I’m still not sure the pairing between Facial and Warpaint worked out super well in the former’s case, however it is clear that Warpaint are still as sexy and talented as ever.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson