Saturday, 7 December at the King’s Arms, Auckland

I have this theory that the best place to see a band play is in a small, smoky bar. It’s small enough that you can see the band play instead of some guy’s head and you can get a beer without missing any of the action.

So with this in mind, I was very excited to learn that Sleater-Kinney were playing two shows at the King’s Arms. I headed along to the cool girl boutique and bought a ticket for the Saturday night show.

Ok, most people will have one of two reactions when the topic of Sleater-Kinney comes up.

1. “I’ve never heard of them.” (It’s ok – they’ve probably never heard of you, either.) or,
2. “Yeah, they’re cool but I like Le Tigre better (Hush your mouth!)

So for all the people who’d give response #1, here’s a brief summary. Sleater-Kinney are a three piece pop/rock/punk band, originally from Olympia, Washington. There’s Corin and Carrie on guitars and Janet on drums. They kind of came out of the riot grrrl movement of the early-90s, but they’ve gone beyond that.

I showed up at the King’s Arse and the first thing I noticed was the huge number of guys there. I was kind of expecting it to be filled with lots of girls, but I’d even take a guess and say there were more males there. There were a lot of emo guys there, but once I pushed through the wall of ironic whiteboy afros and sideburns, I found the hardcore fans up the front. They were the ones having fun, jumping around, singing along.

So the band kicked off the show with “Little babies,” which is just the right thing to get everyone in a good mood. There were some really cool moments where it seemed that every band member was playing and singing something different, but it all came together perfectly and sounded great. Loud guitars with big, fat distortion paired with sweet, three part vocal harmonies is nothin’ but a good time.

I like how Sleater-Kinney can write cool songs about potentially melodramatic subjects. “Far away” the September 11-themed song had everyone jumping up and down during the chorus, and “Sympathy,” about Corin’s baby, started out as a slow, bluesy tune, then eventually got more and more rock until everyone was jumping up and down shouting “I’ve got this curse in my hands!”

Normally I ain’t got no time for drum solos, but Janet ripped into her kit and totally let loose. It’s the kind of drumming that makes your skirt hem vibrate. And hey, for a band with no bass player, there was a lot of bassy sounds.

It was a kick-arse set with plenty of old songs along with ones off the new album. Back for the encore (and who is ever surprised when the band comes back for a few more tunes?), they took a request from the audience, played some more which ended in a bit of freeform playing and then, bang, straight into “Dig me out,” a great ending to a great show in a small smoky bar.