I bought tickets a few days ago to see Sleater-Kinney when they come to Columbus this fall. I've seen them before, 19 years ago.
For a few years in my youth, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone. That particular magazine helped me to discover a lot of bands that weren’t getting played on mainstream radio. That’s how I learned about Sleater-Kinney. I seem to remember very favorable reviews of Dig Me Out, which was their third album. I bought the album. I loved it. I then bought their first two albums, Sleater-Kinney and Call the Doctor. I was hooked.
I picked up each new album as they were released… and then they went on tour in support of All Hands on the Bad One. They were going to make a stop at Southgate House, which was my favorite venue at the time. (A brief aside about Southgate House. It was a house built in 1812… no, not just a house, a big old mansion. The person who invented the Tommy Gun was born in this house. I don’t mention this to glorify firearms or warfare, just to point out that this is a genuinely historic building. Shows were usually held in what was called “the ballroom”, but there were plenty of other rooms in the house where music would happen during the larger festival-type events.)
The show ended up being sold out. I got to the venue incredibly early, as is my normal habit, and there was a line down the sidewalk out front of other folks waiting to get in. I remember not knowing who the opening act would be... it turns out that the opener was a regional band from a few hours' drive up north on I-75... they were called The White Stripes. I was kind of surprised that there were only two of them when they took the stage... and I was a little dismayed because they didn't have a bass player, and you know, that's my instrument. Then again, Sleater-Kinney doesn't have a bass player, and I liked them just fine. That said, I was puzzled by the overwhelming simplicity of the drums, as I was used to Janet Weiss. I didn't realize at the time that the simplicity was the point. I'll be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with the openers, but I thought it was interesting that they coordinated their outfits. (When they were done playing Jack and Meg retired to the side of the ballroom - not backstage - and were just kind of by themselves for awhile. If I had known what was going to become of them, I probably would have gone and made friends... then again, maybe not.)
Sleater-Kinney were great. Here's the setlist from the show. Fantastic.
I watched this show from the balcony, and this was the first time I'd ever done that for an entire show at Southgate House. The venue was small enough that being in the balcony still had you rather close to the stage, and it sounded great up there as well. After the show, I made my way down to the stage, as I wanted to tell the ladies how much I enjoyed their show. Now, I was a great deal younger then, and these days I know better than to bug a band full of strangers while they are trying to load out... but there I was over at the side of the stage... and Carrie Brownstein was headed in my general direction. I will also mention that at this point, I hadn't been playing music longer than a couple of years, and I was still generally in awe of professional musicians, seeing them less as actual people than as otherworldly talented beings. I expressed how great I felt the show was. Carrie walked over, shook my hand, said "thank you very much", and asked for my name. She was striking in person in a way that the pictures in the CDs do not capture. I was kind of awestruck. Looking back on it, she and her bandmates were quite busy, and she certainly didn't need to take the time to acknowledge me, but acknowledge me she did. That's something I will always remember.
So yeah, Sleater-Kinney are back on the road, with a new album dropping soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.