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The cathartic dance party marking the evident end of Sleater-Kinneythe poli-psychotic punk trio announced an indefinite hiatus after this summer’s tourfelt like a turning point, an end of the innocence for a fan base that has stayed remarkably loyal for more than a decade. The band represented teenage kicks and college mix tapes for much of the crowd, whose through-the-roof enthusiasm made it clear just how much these three ladies meant to them. Sleater-Kinney’s devotees might largely be proper grown-ups with nine-to-five gigs now, but tonight was all about harnessing the energy of a bygone era. To say the audience was sometimes more fun to watch than the band is not an insult.
The band, for its part, ripped through a 24-song, two-encore set without losing steam or focus, opening with, appropriately, “Start Together,” as the crowd’s en masse pogoing made it clear this was a uniting event. Five songs in came “Light Rail Coyote,” S-K’s love song to our shared hometown of Portland, Oregon, and when Corin Tucker sang about borrowing her parents’ car to cruise up Burnside, I was a high school junior again, in my dad’s Explorer, listening to “Call the Doctor” while driving to the coffee shop. Ten years later, in the Webster Hall balcony, I was in tears.
“Coyote” might have been my emotional high point, but the band was just getting started. Carrie Brownstein, a dead ringer for a teenage boy despite being in her thirties, did a series of guitar god rock kicks that would’ve shamed the Rockettes during “Hot Rock,” while drummer Janet Weiss busted out a harmonica for “Modern Girl.” The song’s chorus, “My whole life/Is like a picture of a sunny day” seemed to resonate with the mid-heat-wave attendees.
As a final parting shot, the band jumped right into its first, and for perhaps many fans still biggest, hit: “In one more hour I will be gone,” Corin began, letting everyone know that the end was really here. Later in the song, she sang, “Don’t say another word/About the other girl,” and all implications for the future state of “women in rock” aside, the only names on our lips right then were Corin, Carrie, and Janet.